Hinchingbrooke problems ‘confined to one department’

MANAGERS at Hinchingbrooke Hospital have moved to reassure patients that problems in the treatment of colorectal conditions are not replicated in other departments.

Last week, The Hunts Post reported that major bowel cancer surgery had been moved to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, whose specialists were overseeing colorectal work at Hinchingbrooke.

The arrangement follows concern by Cambridgeshire coroners about a number of case of patients having died after colorectal surgery at the Huntingdon hospital that they would normally have been expected to survive.

Hinchingbrooke agreed to a request from South and West Cambridgeshire Coroner David Morris to commission an independent external review of the department “and associated practice at the hospital and the issues of nursing care”.

In the meantime, Addenbrooke’s clinicians have become involved, and Hinchingbrooke has promised to implement the recommendations of the independent review.

Interim chief executive Nigel Beverley told The Hunts Post yesterday (Tuesday) that there was no evidence of problems in other Hinchingbrooke departments.

“You do get these clusters from time to time. One of the reasons we have taken action is to get and external view.”

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The review will also cover the way serious untoward incidents (SUI) are reported after another coroner, Dr Sam Bass, said he was concerned that “undue influence has come from the clinicians involved and it is lacking in independent scrutiny”.

Mr Morris said he had also been concerned that “several other internal SUI reports have been less than optimal”.

The problems come at the same time as a string of complaints from patients and relatives about both the care provided and the manner of hospital staff and coincide with uncertainty about the hospital’s future management.

Hinchingbrooke was to have been handed over to John Lewis-style partnership Circle on June 1 under a management franchise, but that decision remains stuck in the Treasury.

Circle wants to empower clinicians and other staff to identify problems in service delivery and fix them, improving both efficiency and patient experience.

The trust denies that Hinchingbrooke is drifting on a sea of uncertainty.

“One of the reasons I’m here is to ensure that there isn’t drift and that we keep on providing safe services and manage it into the new contract as soon as possible,” said Mr Beverley, Hinchingbrooke’s fourth successive temporary leader in five years.

“The delay has caused a bit of a hiccup, because there was an expectation that the contract would now be in place.”

He admitted that the uncertainty had added to Hinchingbrooke’s difficulty in recruiting and retaining doctors and nurses.

“It continues to be challenging because we are a small hospital anyway, and it’s affected by the delay to the franchise. I hope we shall have news on that within days – weeks at the most.”

Recruitment difficulties had not impacted on services, though the hospital was having to rely on locums in some circumstances, he said.