Published: 13:59, 29 January 2021
| Updated: 15:52, 29 January 2021
Kent NHS bosses say "lessons have been learnt" after an emergency decision was taken to strip contracts from a dermatology company last year.
Thousands of patients were put at "risk" from suspected problems with the care provided by DMC Healthcare in north Kent from April 2019 to June 2020. This included diagnosis and treatment of skin and cancer conditions.
Concerns were raised about information gaps in the recording of patient data, including treatment referrals for people who were suspected of having cancer.
The Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), a body which oversees the county health system, including seven hospitals and 200 GP surgeries, has conducted an internal review into the decision-making process.
Earlier this week, an NHS report entitled "lessons learned" was presented to a virtual panel of Kent County Council's (KCC) health scrutiny committee, whose responsibility is to hold the NHS to account.
Labour councillor Shane Mochrie-Cox questioned the "lack of accountability" within the NHS while CCG chiefs promised there would be closer scrutiny of private health contractors in future.
Sussex Community Dermatology Services (SDCS) stepped in at the eleventh hour to provide a temporary service in Dartford, Gravesham and Swale last July. Staff have cleared a backlog of 7,500 patients over the past six months.
Meanwhile, three other contracts were also taken away from DMC Healthcare last year for 28,000 patients at Medway GP surgeries, including St Werburgh Medical Practice, King Family Practice and St Mary's Island in Chatham.
CCG chiefs pledged improvements would be made to reduce the risk of similar future issues, including "tighter" and "robust" management of contracts and the need to take swifter action to resolve any potential patient health risks.
Cllr Mochrie-Cox, of Gravesham, said: "How can the CCG ensure that they don't just make the same mistakes again?"
Caroline Selkirk, who is the Kent CCG's executive director of health improvement, said: "We work with hundreds of contracts and in the main they work well, but what you will hear more about are the ones that are challenged."
She said the integration of health services in Kent under one administrative body last April, the county-wide CCG, will reduce the likelihood of the DMC Healthcare scandal being repeated, with greater "expertise" at its disposal.
Meanwhile, Paula Wilkins, the CCG's chief nurse, said a dashboard would be created to closely track the performance of NHS providers going forward.
She added: "The last thing you want to do is terminate a contract and re-tender. That does not solve the problem."
DMC Healthcare, based in south London, said it inherited historic issues with the dermatology service, including poor IT systems and an undeclared patient backlog, last July.
Emergency provision by SCDS will continue until March 2022 after a lengthy process is taken to re-tender the contract to a new provider.