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Past NHS medical controversies
A nurse tends to a patient
The NHS has been hit by a series of adverse episodes in recent years
A series of adverse episodes in which NHS patients have been harmed over the last few years has led ministers - and many clinicians and managers within the service itself - to try to create a more patient-centred health service.

They want an NHS where patient safety is paramount, doctors' clinical practice is audited to check all are delivering care of a similar standard, and patients have the right to information about their individual doctors and hospitals, allowing them - in theory - to exercise some measure of choice about where they are treated.

Panorama has reported on many of these episodes over the years.

Click on the links to find out more information:

Bristol Royal Infirmary

Bristol Royal Infirmary

In 1995, a long running attempt by a doctor in Bristol to alert people to the fact that more babies were dying after heart surgery in Bristol than anywhere else in the country came to a head with the death on the operating table of Joshua Loveday.

Panorama reported on this story in 1998, when the General Medical Council (GMC) had completed its investigation into the staff involved (a surgeon and the hospital's chief executive were found guilty of serious professional misconduct and struck off the Medical Register, while a second surgeon was suspended).

Panorama returned to the story in 2001, when the public inquiry set up by the government under the chairmanship of Prof Sir Ian Kennedy released its findings. Sir Ian's report - which ran to almost 500 pages - was ground-breaking.

Cardiac surgeons had feared an attack but instead got a thoughtful, detailed analysis of how the NHS could be improved so that the tragic events of Bristol would not be repeated.

The report contained 198 recommendations, of which two said that the public should be able to have access to information about the performance of individual trusts and surgeons units within them.

The then Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced in the wake of the report that the outcomes of individual cardiac surgeons' operations would be published by 2004, but this has not yet happened.

It has proved difficult to publish results for the country as a whole which can be compared with each other, when different surgeons take on cases of differing complexity.

The Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons has argued that publication of outcomes of individual surgeons without proper adjustment for "case mix" might show the most talented and experienced surgeons as having the highest death rates, as these would be the most likely to take on the hardest, and therefore the most risky, cases.

They argue that publication of such data would lead to surgeons becoming "risk-averse", and only taking on the most straightforward cases; while the public, seeing the results of the most able surgeons, would avoid them - neither of which would help patients.

As a result, at the end of last year the Society published information showing hospitals' aggregate results, and gave an assurance that no surgeon departed too far from the average. The Society has said it will be able to publish risk-adjusted results for individual surgeons, but not for at least a year.

Alder Hey - Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital

Alder Hey children's hospital

In 1999, it emerged, initially through evidence given to the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry, that many parents whose children had died at the Royal Liverpool Children's Hospital, Alder Hey, had thought that they were burying their children intact, when in fact their vital organs had been retained by the hospital Trust.

A damning report into how this came about, and the failure of the Trust adequately to deal with the concerns of parents as they tried to find out the truth was published in 2001, following an inquiry chaired by Michael Redfern QC.

The former Trust pathologist at the centre of the scandal, Prof Dick van Velzen, was struck off the medical register by the General Medical Council (GMC) in June 2005.

Richard Neale

Richard Neale

The case of Richard Neale, a gynaecologist who worked in Friarage Hospital, North Yorkshire, between 1985 and 1995 was first exposed by Panorama.

That film precipitated a GMC inquiry at the end of which Mr Neale was found guilty of serious professional misconduct in cases involving 34 different patients, botched operations and operating without proper consent.

A government inquiry revealed failure within the NHS complaints and employment systems.

Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman

Harold Shipman who worked as a GP in Hythe, Greater Manchester, was convicted in 2000 of 15 charges of murder.

Subsequent investigations revealed that he had killed at least 200 more of his patients. An inquiry set up under the High Court judge Dame Janet Smith in 2001 published its fifth and final report in 2004.

This report was particularly critical of the plans of the GMC - the body responsible for registering doctors and for striking them off - for the "revalidation" of doctors.

Rodney Ledward

Rodney Ledward

Rodney Ledward was a consultant gynaecologist at the South Kent Hospitals NHS Trust from 1980 until he was sacked in December 1996. He also practised privately.

He removed one woman's ovaries without her consent. Some 198 claims for compensation followed.

In 2000, an independent inquiry criticised management in the NHS for failing to pick up on the concerns of patients and its own staff.

Stolen Hearts February 21 2000
21 Feb 00 |  Archive
The Alder Hey report
30 Jan 01 |  Health
Pledge over patient agony
02 Jun 00 |  Health


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