The epidemic of performance management in health has corrupted administrators, commissioners, and trust boards as well as doctors and nurses. The perverse incentives to fiddle the books are so strong that many are tempted. This is just the tip of an iceberg… Rationing differently by post-code encourages whatever behaviours can be got away with..
Police are investigating allegations that an NHS hospital fiddled waiting times to meet targets.
NHS counterfraud agents are also looking into claims that bosses manipulated computer systems to hide the extent of long waits.
Dozens of patients are known to have been harmed, including one who suffered loss of sight, and hundreds are still waiting for surgery after more than a year.
Kettering General Hospital accepts that waiting lists were wrongly reported but insists this was an IT error rather than a deliberate cover-up. However, David Phelan, a former surgery man- ager at Kettering and now a governor of the hospital, said that officially reported waiting times were “based on a lie”.
Hospitals are told to make sure that 92 per cent of patients are given routine operations, such as hip replacements, within 18 weeks. Mr Phelan claims that bosses were so obsessed with hitting the target that they asked for databases to be programmed to exclude patients who had waited for more than a year and those who had not been in touch for six months.
He first noticed the anomalies in 2015. “They’ve bastardised the data so badly they actually don’t know what the waiting list is. They don’t know how many patients were affected,” he said.
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health spokesman, demanded a full inquiry. “There appears to be a rotten culture which has to be confronted,” he said.
Detectives have interviewed Mr Phelan and visited the hospital in response to the allegations but have yet to decide whether to open a formal inquiry. It is unclear whether the claims would be treated as fraud, misconduct in a public office or a data crime. “An allegation of potential misconduct at Kettering General Hospital has been made to Northamptonshire police and we are in the process of scoping that allegation,” a police spokesman said.
Fiona Wise, interim chief executive of Kettering General Hospital, said: “Naturally we will work with [the police and NHS Protect] to demonstrate how we have handled our waiting-time is- sues. The trust has openly and publicly admitted that we have had problems with our waiting-times data, systems and processes at that time and we have worked hard to address all of those issues and ensure that patients do not wait for too long. We have also categorically refuted any allegation that the trust has deliberately manipulated its waiting-list data.”