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NHS trust apology for DNA failings

A health trust has apologised for "inexcusable failings" which resulted in two staff members being dismissed at a sexual assault referral centre.

Barts Health NHS Trust in east London said in a statement they were "extremely sorry" about concerns raised in 2011 relating to samples failing to be sent to forensic laboratories for DNA testing.

A spokesman for NHS England said "a serious incident was raised and an immediate investigation carried out" at the Haven in Whitechapel.

"This investigation unearthed a further issue of results from samples having been received but not passed on to clients. A total of 93 clients were affected by the two issues," he added.

Following the investigation, two members of staff at Barts Health were dismissed, and since April 2013, when NHS England was established, the commissioning arrangement for the centre has also changed.

All three Havens in London - Whitechapel, Paddington and Camberwell - are now managed by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England said.

Camberwell and Paddington Havens were not affected by the incident, and while the Haven in Whitechapel has now reopened, it is not yet providing a full 24 hour service.

In a statement, Barts Health NHS Trust, said: " We are extremely sorry for the inexcusable failings at the Whitechapel Haven.

"As soon as we became aware that there was an issue in 2011, we took swift and immediate action to ensure that all the affected samples were re-tested and contacted the individuals involved to offer a full apology, support and counselling."

The Independent newspaper says a report obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found dozens of samples taken from victims of sexual attacks were found left in a fridge when they should have been sent for forensic analysis.

The paper said staff at the unit described working in "an oppressive, tense environment" and told investigators that they dreaded their shifts but were afraid to complain to managers.

The report concludes that many of the problems "echoed the underlying failures identified" as part of the inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal, the newspaper report said.

The Independent said the report had not been made public, but the Trust said it has "strived for transparency".

The Trust said there is no suggestion that it acted in an inappropriate way during the investigation.

The statement said the Trust has "strived for transparency throughout and the independent investigation report commented on the diligence, honesty and openness of our staff in working together to discover and correct what had gone wrong", as well as commending staff for the quality of individual care provided to those accessing the service".

NHS England said: "The Trust took swift and immediate action working with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that forensic testing took place without further delay on all samples affected.

"Immediate steps were taken to contact each client, whose samples had not been sent for testing, as well as those whose samples had been tested but who had not been informed of the results.

"They received a full apology and were invited to make an appointment with a trained counsellor to receive the results and continued support."

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall said the report should be published immediately.

She said: "The women who have been affected have a right to know who is responsible for the unacceptable failings at Whitechapel Haven and that they are properly held to account.

"Complete transparency is also essential to ensure similar services for rape victims learn the lessons from what has happened to make sure these appalling mistakes never happen again."


From Belfast Telegraph