Medical Negligence

Up to 250 patient deaths in London cardiac unit under investigation

April 2, 2019
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Written by Christian Beadell, Partner & Head of Legal Strategy & Ops

It has recently been announced that the deaths of up to 250 patients at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London are being investigated.

Concerns regarding patients treated in the cardiac unit between April 2013 and September 2018, resulted in complex heart surgery being suspended last year.

A report was prepared following discussions with 39 members of staff at the unit and the staff have commented on the “dark force” and “toxic” feuds within the department.

The report highlights how the dysfunctional team of surgeons with “strong” personalities were unable to work together and as such could not put the interest of the patient as the heart of their treatment.

Whilst, unfortunately some deaths would have inevitable given the serious nature of the surgery, St George’s Hospital had nearly twice the death rate of the national average.  The staff interviewed felt that “poor performance was inevitable due to the pervading atmosphere”.

Professor Berwick, the former NHS England deputy medical director, wrote the report and stated “In our view the whole team shares responsibility for the failure to significantly improve professional relationships and to a degree, surgical mortality”.

The Panel will now be reviewing each individual case and examining the medical records of all patients who died during this period and investigations made into any cases where significant concerns arise. The families will then be contacted accordingly.

A Medical Negligence Senior Solicitor at Fletchers Solicitors, believes that this review will highlight the ways in which medical negligence can arise by not putting the patient at the heart of their treatment.

They said: “As medical negligence solicitors, we increasingly see patients either being treated by clinicians who are not suitably qualified or experienced to address surgical issues, or who feel that they are capable of treating a patient without obtaining a second opinion.

“There can be an element of arrogance on behalf of some clinicians as they are over confident in relation to their diagnosis and would not consider asking for assistance from others. This can be an issue with the individual treating clinician or on occasions, by the department as a whole.”

“We often come across cases were there have been delays in diagnosis as the GP would not or did not consider input was needed from a Consultant or where there was a reluctance from a junior to ask for advice or assistance from a senior colleague. This arrogance or over confidence then leads to cases of medical negligence where patients’ lives are put at risk.”

They hope that the review and the publicity around it will alert consultants to the life threatening consequences of not being able to work together as a team.

Our expert concluded: “This will reinforce the disastrous consequences of ego and mistrust within a department. Many families will have the grief of their loved ones’ death compounded by the knowledge that the death may have been preventable.”

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