A former haematology consultant says cancer patients are having their treatment delayed because of problems at a lab at the centre of a smear test scandal.

Eric Watts, a former Basildon Hospital consultant, says he is still waiting for answers from Basildon Clinical Commissioning group over questions he raised about Pathology First in Bentalls, Basildon, more than a year ago.

Southend Standard:

Concerned - Eric Watts

Southend Standard:

Fighter - Jade Goody

Mr Watts has repeatedly asked if problems with understaffing, efficiency and the over-use of locums have been adequately addressed after learning about ongoing delays in analysing tests.

The lab was launched as a joint venture by Southend, Basildon and Thurrock Hospitals and private company Integrated Pathology Partnerships in 2014.

Mr Watts requested the assurances after the lab was investigated over errors made in analysing smear tests.

Of 2,500 samples re-examined, 31 were found to have been given the all clear when abnormalities were present. As a result, a further 2,168 samples from women aged 25-29 were re-examined.

NHS England and the lab have since declined to reveal the number of these tests found to have inaccuracies.

Mr Watts said: “Before retirement I was involved in improving safety standards and was chairman of a working party at the National Patient Safety Agency.

“As I am a cancer survivor I co-founded the Brentwood cancer support group, known as Tea and Talk at Toby’s, where I have heard of delayed treatment because lab results have not been available on time.

“After I looked into this I found a number of problems.

“I am following the procedures correctly, we know that hospitals are required to save money. The clinical commission group’s responsibilities are to ensure that the services they provide are safe and effective.

“Some schemes to save money have resulted in staffing levels that are insufficient for the task, which is why I have been asking the groups the relevant questions and I am still waiting for a satisfactory reply.”

It has emerged the Royal College of Pathologists has investigated the lab and a report is yet to be published.

Mr Watts recently wrote to Basildon Clinical Group prompting them for answers to his questions.

Minutes of a board meeting on March 28 acknowledge Mr Watts’ request.

Lisa Allen, the group’s clinical accountable officer, responded: “We haven’t received the report from the Royal College of Pathologists and are not aware if a date has been given for its publication.

“The CCG has contacted Basildon Hospital about the specific issues you have raised. We’ve not yet received a reply and we’ll respond to you when we do.”

Mr Watts said: “There are a number of problems I’m not happy with.

“They have spoken about sorting them but until I know I remain concerned.

“If the clinical commissioning groups were doing their jobs as they should be, I wouldn’t be asking these questions.”