In doing so, the review led by Michael Lewis investigated cases of 202 patients who underwent heart surgery prior to passing away between 2013 and 2018.
Shockingly, the review published in March 2020 found “significant shortcomings” in the treatment provided by St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 102 of the 202 deaths they examined. Furthermore, in 67 of the 102 cases, it was concluded the cases “significant shortcomings” either probably, most likely, or definitely contributed to their deaths.
In the meantime, St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust between April 2013 and March 2017 was found to have a higher mortality rate than other UK cardiac centres. This was thought to be in part as a result of a “toxic” row between surgeons.
The hospital apologized for the “serious failings in care”. Dr Richard Jennings, the hospital’s chief medical officer at the time also added that the hospital “fully accepts the panel’s findings, and we apologise unreservedly for the serious failings in care”.
A Cardiac Surgery Task Force was set up in 2017, which has advised has led to mortality rates in heart surgery being within the “expected range” since March 2018 at St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Dr Richard Jennings commented at the time “The heart surgery service at St George’s is now safe, and the current service is very different to the one the trust took urgent steps to improve in 2017”.
More recently, a coroner has been involved. At 26 inquests heard so far involving the cases highlighted in the review, Dr Fiona Wilcox has concluded the patients were in fact treated appropriately and the surgeons should not be blamed for their deaths.
Dr Fiona Wilcox has apologized to families, and has commented the team completing the review “was limited by lack of information and evidence” and that “an examination of records of three to four hours compared to the extensive time that this court has spent examining this case both in and out of court is relatively cursory for a complex case.”
Importantly, Dr Fiona Wilcox states, “The review, in error, identified factors which might have changed the outcome and then [went] on to conclude [that] factors which may have affected the outcome definitely contributed to the death. That is a fundamental logical inconsistency in this review … I am concerned about that.”
Subsequently, the department at St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is nearing collapse:
There are concerns therefore that without further action, it is likely the services will continue to deteriorate, despite the Care Quality Commission finding improvements. Naturally, it will be the patients who will feel the brunt of this. As a result, families are left in anguish, unsure of whether to believe the Independent External Mortality Review or Dr Fiona Wilcox.
For information regarding negligent surgical operations and medical care, visit our online resource here.
If you feel you or someone you know has experienced negligence at the hands of a healthcare professional, please contact Oakwood Solicitors Ltd on 0113 200 9787 for a no-obligation conversation to discuss further.
Meet the author
Kathryn Stitt is a Trainee Solicitor in the Medical Negligence Department, having commenced her training contract at Oakwood Solicitors in September 2021. Kathryn was previously a Paralegal in the M…
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