Council failed to investigate woman's concern of 'cancer cluster'

Barking Town Hall

Barking Town Hall. - Credit: Ken Mears

A woman's concerns about a possible cancer cluster in the borough will be investigated by the council after an Ombudsman found it had failed to act on her concerns.

A report released by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman today (Thursday, February 25) revealed the council didn't follow Public Health England guidance and delayed referring the matter to its director of public health after the woman raised concerns.

Local Government Ombudsman head Michael King. Pic: LGO

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman Michael King. - Credit: Archant

Barking and Dagenham Council says it is already acting on the recommendations of the report and the concerns about potential cancer clusters have not been proven.

The woman first reported a possible link between cancer cases in her neighbourhood in April 2018 and chased the council about her concerns for many months. 

However, the council failed to respond to her, lost her reports in its systems, and did not take them through the appropriate public health channels.

She made a complaint about its inaction, which - when it was eventually considered - was wrongly referred to the Environment Agency instead of the Ombudsman.

A council spokesperson said: “As a council we accept we did not handle the concerns raised in a co-ordinated way, which falls short of the standards of customer service we set ourselves, and have since corrected this oversight – for this we apologise to the complainant.

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“Although it is important to stress that the concerns about potential cancer clusters have not been proven, and such clusters are incredibly rare.

“We would like to reassure our residents that concerns of this nature are taken very seriously and we will act to protect the health and safety of our residents in such cases."

The council has agreed to pay the woman £750 in recognition of the distress, uncertainty and confusion its faults have caused her and will investigate her concerns.

The Ombudsman, Michael King, said: “The Health and Social Care Act 2012 gives councils the responsibility to improve their population’s overall health, and this includes acting on reports of non-infectious disease clusters.

“I hope the changes the council has agreed to make, including developing and circulating a new procedure, will help ensure awareness is raised within the authority.”