Page last updated at 22:13 GMT, Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Stafford Hospital bans some surgeons over safety fears

Stafford Hospital has banned all but one of its surgeons from doing gall bladder operations because of safety concerns after two patients died there.

One patient died of complications following surgery. Another patient was operated on twice and died after the second operation earlier this year.

The hospital said it had taken steps to ensure surgical safety at the hospital.

It said one surgeon would continue to perform gall bladder operations and it would appoint a second surgeon shortly.

The hospital has not said how many surgeons are affected the ban.

Competency review

The hospital governors, who met on Wednesday afternoon, have also agreed to act upon the recommendations of an annual report in October from the Royal College of Surgeons.

One of the recommendations is to stop breast surgeons from performing surgery of the bowel and lower intestines and to stop them assisting with emergency surgery, in order to comply with best practice guidelines.

The hospital said the change was not the result of any poor outcomes, it was simply "redirecting breast surgeons to their area of expertise".

I would like to reassure patients that we have taken steps to ensure our surgical services at Stafford Hospital are safe
Manjit Obhrai, medical director

In addition, the hospital said it was submitting two of its bowel cancer surgeons to a National Clinical Assessment Service Review.

It said the assessment was to measure their competency levels and was not a standard procedure.

It said it was doing this because of "poor outcomes" in bowel cancer surgery, but it declined to explain what that meant.

Bowel cancer surgery normally involves removing the affected tissue and stitching two parts of the bowel together.

The most common problem to develop is a tear, which allows waste material from the bowels to get into the bloodstream and cause blood poisoning, which in extreme cases can be fatal, BBC Midlands Today health correspondent Michele Paduano said.

Stafford Hospital's medical director Manjit Obhrai said: "I would like to reassure patients that we have taken steps to ensure our surgical services at Stafford Hospital are safe."

Safety rankings

"We [also] accept the recommendations of the Royal College of Surgeons as these additional actions will bring us up to date with the best practices in the country," he added.

Emergency care at Stafford Hospital was described as "appalling" in an independent health watchdog report in March.

A previous watchdog said that about 400 people "died needlessly" in the hospital between 2005 and 2008 due to poor care, and an investigation was started.

In April a new medical director joined the hospital and in August three new non-executive directors were appointed to the hospital's Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust board.

On Monday, the online Doctor Foster Hospital Guide, which ranks hospital trusts in England, named Stafford Hospital as the ninth best hospital for patient safety in the country.

However, the Care Quality Commission, which rated the hospital as "weak" for the second year running in October, questioned that ranking and said it still had progress to make.

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