01 March 2012
Chief Executive Robert Woolley’s statement to the public Board on 28 February 2012
Statement to Board regarding histopathology services at
University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust
At the public Board meeting on Tuesday 28 February, Chief
Executive Robert Woolley gave the following statement about
histopathology services at the Trust:
"University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UH Bristol)
commissioned an Independent Inquiry in 2009 to review allegations
about its Histopathology services and to consider whether
appropriate action was taken by the Trust to address these
"The Independent Inquiry, conducted by a panel of experts and
chaired by Jane Mishcon, a leading barrister, published its report
and recommendations on 8th December 2010.
"The Independent Inquiry found no evidence to
suggest that the histopathology department at UH Bristol provides
anything other than a safe service. However, it did raise concerns
about the culture, attitude and working practices in the department
and criticised the Trust for the quality of its response to
concerns about clinical services.
"I issued a public apology on behalf of the Trust Board for the
fact that a small number of patients had been harmed as a result of
diagnostic mistakes and that concerns about our services were not
promptly and thoroughly investigated at the time that they
"The recommendations from the Independent Inquiry are being
implemented through an integrated action plan, jointly owned by UH
Bristol and North Bristol NHS Trust, which is reported publicly at
the Trust Board, at our Membership Council and to the Bristol
Health Scrutiny Commission.
"The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook its own review of
histopathology services at UH Bristol in 2011. The CQC found that
the Trust was meeting all six of the essential standards of quality
and safety which it reviewed. It suggested that the Trust make
improvements in three areas in order to maintain compliance and we
have set out the actions we are taking in these areas.
"Recently, some alarmist reports have appeared in the media
repeating allegations that thousands of diagnostic errors may have
been made by the Trust over a ten-year period. These allegations
are based on a crude extrapolation from a review of an audit of
discrepancy rates submitted to the Independent Inquiry, evaluated
by them and made public as part of their report. Patients may be
reassured that the author of the review, Professor Peter Furness,
President of the Royal College of Pathologists, concluded that,
although he detected issues in the working practices in the
department, he did not believe the audit identified a systematic
pattern of error.
"The Trust has invited the Independent Inquiry panel to return
to Bristol shortly to ascertain what progress has been made against
their recommendations for improvement. The Trust will publish the
outcomes from this review.
"This Trust has undergone unprecedented scrutiny of the quality
of its histopathology services over the last two years but has been
found to be meeting essential quality and safety standards.
Nonetheless, we remain committed to addressing the recommendations
from the Independent Inquiry and will continue to publish our
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