Cancer-row hospital chief resigns

The chief executive of a hospital under police investigation over allegations it fixed cancer waiting times has resigned.

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Cancer patients at Colchester General Hospital in Essex suffered "undue delays".

The chief executive of a hospital under police investigation over allegations it fixed cancer waiting times has resigned.

Dr Gordon Coutts, who is on sick leave, will not return to Colchester Hospital University NHS Trust by "mutual agreement".

Dr Coutts said in a statement: "I realise that this is an extremely difficult time for the trust as it seeks to understand where it has failed patients in the past and seeks to rebuild the confidence of patients, the public and stakeholders in the many excellent services it offers.

"Underpinning this will be the need to lead and support staff to deliver high quality and safe services.

"I regret that there have been problems in the trust's cancer services.

"As chief executive I always took my responsibility for what happened in the organisation very seriously. I am sorry that some of our patients were let down and that what has happened may have damaged local people's confidence in their hospitals."

Last month, the trust was put in special measures following a Care Quality Commission (CQC) report which found a number of cancer patients suffered "undue delays".

CQC inspectors found that there were "inaccuracies" with waiting times data relating to cancer treatment.

Staff told inspectors they were "pressured or bullied" to change data relating to patients and their treatment to make it seem as though people were being treated in line with national guidelines.

As a result some patients may not have had the treatment they needed in time, according to the CQC.

Dr Coutts said today he was "extremely proud to leave behind a highly competent and dedicated leadership team" that was making improvements.

"I should also like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many excellent staff who work so hard for patients and who I know will ensure that any lessons learned from the recent events will reinforce the trust's commitment to deliver the very best and consistent patient experience."

Tim Roberts, regional organiser of Unison, says: "Mr Coutts should have resigned weeks ago.

"I am very proud that it was Unison members who blew the whistle about what was going on in cancer services after management tried to bully them into changing the data and threatened them to keep quiet about the dodgy practices.

"It seems that some critically ill patients did not receive the appropriate treatment at the right time because of the falsification of data.

"He was the leader of the organisation and was ultimately accountable for patient safety.

"We hope the trust board will move quickly to recruit a new permanent chief executive who can lead the organisation out of the mess."