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Last Updated: Monday, 24 July 2006, 23:23 GMT 00:23 UK
'They did not repair my hernia'
Andy Walker
Andy Walker had wanted to go to a nearby NHS hospital
MPs say they are not convinced about the benefits of a network of private clinics set up to carry out minor surgery for the NHS.

But they said there was no evidence to suggest standards of care were lower compared to the NHS.

Andy Walker was not the average patient.

As a retired hospital consultant, he knows a thing or two about surgery.

But all this experience counted for nothing when he was told be needed a hernia operation.

The former anaesthetic consultant, from Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset, wanted to go to north Somerset's Weston General Hospital when he was told he needed surgery in autumn 2005.

But instead he was directed to the nearby Shepton Mallet Independent Sector Treatment Centre by the local primary care trust.

When the swelling went down a little while after the operation it became clear the hernia had not been repaired. I couldn't understand it
Andy Walker

"I went for the pre-op assessment and that all went well. I was seen by a youngish Polish surgeon and Slovakian anaethetist and they both seemed very competent.

"But when I went in for the operation, I saw different staff. It did not strike me as good continuity of care."

He said during the operation he was asked to cough, adding the doctor was "having trouble finding the hernia".

After the operation, he developed urinary retention - an inability to empty the bladder - and needed to be prescribed antibiotics for the problem.

However, as the centre did not have a pharmacy on site his wife had to drive to the nearest chemist to pick up the drugs, he said.

He also said the doctor was unable to fill the prescription out in English and had to turn to him and the senior nurse for help.

Problems

But Mr Walker's problems did not end there, he said.

"When the swelling went down a little while after the operation it became clear the hernia had not been repaired. I couldn't understand it."

He went back to his GP and was told he needed another operation, but this time he insisted on going to the Weston General Hospital where the problem was eventually cured.

It transpired that the private clinic had treated a small hernia instead of dealing with the major one.

Mr Walker said he eventually received an apology, but added he was still concerned over the standards of care being provided.

He said they did not have the back up facilities on site if there were complications, such as the need for blood transfusion.

"Even the most simple procedures can have complications... it is concerning."

A spokesman for the ISTC, run by the US-backed UK Specialist Hospitals Ltd, said it was unable to comment on individual cases because of patient confidentiality.

But he added: "The treatment centre can confirm that it is aware of a patient complaint which has been subject to lengthy formal internal investigation."

And he said patient satisfaction rates were over 94%, while complication levels were below the national average.


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