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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 16:51 GMT
Hospital boss quits over scan bungle
ultrasound scan
Ultrasound is carried out to diagnose illness
The chief executive of a London hospital has resigned after independent investigators found thousands of scans had been ordered but not carried out.

The backlog - described as a "major systems failure" - may well have affected the treatment of cancer patients.

The ultrasound scan request forms were found by the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) during a routine inspection of Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals Trust.

Chief Executive Liz Hayer announced her resignation on Wednesday. She has apologised to patients.

The mistakes mean that some patients may have waited many extra months for ultrasound tests - with their condition deteriorating all the while.

There are clearly serious issues concerning the trust's operational systems

John Bacon, NHS London
In total, 2,700 unprocessed requests for scans were found by inspectors.

This follows a separate incident in 2000 where 800 unprocessed requests were found at the trust.

In some cases, say CHI, patients have waited for more than a year for their ultrasounds.

John Bacon, the regional director of NHS London, said: "Waiting can increase worry for patients.

"I am determined that the patients' minds are set at rest as quickly as possible.

"I know that the backlog of ultrasound tests is being dealt with as a matter of urgency."

He added: "However, there are clearly serious issues concerning the trust's operational systems."

Diagnosing ultrasounds

Most of the affected patients have now had their ultrasounds - the rest either have been given an appointment, or will be offered one to have a scan before the end of this month.

The ultrasound requests are not related to maternity care, but to diagnose illnesses in patients.

They came from GPs or hospital consultants concerned that patients might have serious illnesses such as cancer, or gallstones.

CHI, which was due to complete its routine inspection of Barnet and Chase Farm in March, has now launched a separate investigation into the scandal.

This will be completed in the summer.

Experts say there is not yet enough information to gauge the full impact on patients.

Failing hospital

Barnet and Chase Farm was already one of the hospitals marked out as "failing" by the government.

It received no stars in the recent "hospital rating" system launched last year.

In particular, it missed targets to ensure that no patient waited longer than two weeks to see a breast cancer specialist after being referred by their GP.

The hospital has set up a helpline for worried patients on (0845) 4647.

See also:

20 Jan 01 | Health
Hospital babies tested for TB
25 Sep 01 | NHS Performance 2001
'No surprises' among bad hospitals
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