Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) issued a public apology 23 October, after between 300 and 400 children were found to have waited for more than the 18-week legal maximum for their treatment to start. And the true figure may run into thousands, because it has been uncovered that the hospital has been collecting "unreliable" data on waiting times since new rules for its collection were introduced in 2007.

The NHS watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has delayed publishing a critical report on the hospital while investigations continue into whether any children suffered harm as a result of the delays, according to reporting in London's Evening Standard newspaper. GOSH has now "paused" its normal requirement to provide 18-week waiting time date to NHS England. The hospital has blamed the delays on problems with its IT systems.

Earlier this year a new management team found that widespread use of paper records in GOSH meant that some patient details were not recorded on the hospital's central computer. In a statement the hospital said on 23 October: "We recently discovered we have not had the appropriate IT system and processes to track our patients accurately. We would like to reassure patients and their families that throughout this process we all ensuring all who need treatment are treated or have plans to be assessed or seen. We are sorry that our record-keeping and processes to date have not matched the high standards that we, and others, expect of ourselves."

A significant number of GOSH patients could be offered treatment in other hospitals, including private hospitals, to deal with the backlog. The children hit by the delays are those awaiting non-emergency treatment, but who also have complications and therefore require the higher level care for which GOSH is world famous. A new computer system has been ordered, but GOSH says it could take "a couple of years" to install. Meanwhile the CQC said: "We will publish the findings from our inspection as soon as the required reviews and assessments are completed."