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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 17:15 GMT
Inquiry into heart unit

Operation
Heart unit is to be investigated


An investigation has been launched into the running of the heart centre at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The external review, announced by the regional NHS Executive, comes in the wake of the suspension of a surgeon at the unit late last year.

It also follows concern from staff about the way the unit is run.

The NHS Executive has failed to give reasons for the investigation, and has said it does not want to pre-empt the findings.

But it has confirmed the inquiry is linked to the suspension of surgeon Ravi Pillai shortly before Christmas following allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

However, officials say the concerns raised go further than this one case and the review will look at the way that all the heart centre's medical staff and managers work with one another.

In particular, it will assess the way in which the unit responds to the concerns of senior nursing and other staff in cardiac services.

Investigators will also look at training in the unit following the withdrawal of its training accreditation by the Royal College of Surgeons last year.

Nationally renowned

Announcing the review, Barbara Stocking, regional director of the NHS Executive South East, said: "The Oxford Heart Centre is nationally renowned and provides life-saving care to patients from all over the country.

"The review will give us the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the existing arrangements for the management and delivery of cardiac services at the centre, and to see if there are any areas where improvements can be made for the benefit of patients."

The review team includes Mr Jules Dussek, a surgeon nominated by the British Cardiothoracic Society, Stephen Bridge, chief executive at Papworth Hospital, Cambridgeshire, and Wilma MacPherson, director of nursing at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals.

The review is expected to be completed by the summer.

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