PATIENTS are being forced to wait for cancer treatment due to a computer glitch.
It follows an IT upgrade in March which has left problems connecting South Warwickshire Foundation Trust (SWFT) with the pathology network at University Hospital Coventry – where consultants check the outcome of biopsies and send reports to doctors at Warwick Hospital.
It means patients who have undergone biopsies are missing their first cancer appointments where they learn about their cancer and potential treatment plans.
And it also means those who have undergone biopsies, and who may be cancer free, are having to live with the worry longer until receiving the all clear.
The Observer asked how many meetings the glitch had delayed, but the trust was unable to say.
But in May some 100 patients were forced to wait for results – however some of these delays were also due to issues in the radiology department.
Coventry and Warwickshire Pathology Services says it is working with the system supplier to resolve the issue and has provided Warwick Hospital with an alternative way to access the system.
A spokeswoman said: “We would like to apologise to any patients or staff who have been affected by this disruption. We can assure them that we are working closely with SWFT to minimise any impact on patients.”
The news comes as the Observer also discovered Stratford Hospital was running on nearly half the number of cancer consultants.
The £22million state-of-the-art hospital, which opened last year, planned to employ seven consultants in its Rigby Cancer Unit.
But it currently has just four working over two days.
Bosses had planned for the unit to be consultant-led but instead it is now being run by nurses, who carry out treatments and clinics every weekday.
Patient group Bounce Back – which supports people in Warwick and Stratford with breast cancer – said it hoped to see an increase in the number of consultants, but added there was a nationwide shortage.
Member Sarah Jenkins said: “The West Midlands region has the fewest number of oncologist per head of population. There is a shortage of oncologists throughout the UK and as a consequence vacant posts are hard to fill.
“All consultants do their best to see that patients are treated appropriately and in a timely manner. It would be good to have an increase in the number of oncologists locally but with current numbers it is difficult.”
The trust says it has an extra permanent oncologist starting early next year and would be increasing the number of doctors at the hospital from next month.
A SWFT spokeswoman said: “Providing safe, compassionate care is our number one priority, therefore we have put plans in place to increase our consultant cover in the Rigby Unit.
“The Rigby Unit is an important part of the trust’s service provision and ensuring local communities in Stratford and the surrounding areas have access to vital cancer services is extremely important to us.”