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Home Maidstone News Article
A much-lauded surgical procedure has been dramatically halted at Maidstone Hospital following the avoidable deaths of five patients.
Hospital chiefs were forced to take drastic action after five cancer patients in a year died unexpectedly following the key-hole surgery.
One family has already begun legal proceedings against the trust, which has suspended all further specialist surgery and is transferring all patients to London.
The matter has been referred to the General Medical Council, although no members of staff are currently under investigation.
Complications which led to the deaths were avoidable, managers have admitted.
In a statement, the trust said: "While members of staff have been held to account, their overall standard of practice does not support further sanctions.
"Our focus is on providing the highest standards of care and we are learning lessons and making changes."
The deaths all happened in 2012-13, when patients suffered complications after having keyhole surgery at Maidstone Hospital.
The service was given a high-profile launch and included the opportunity for consultants and trainees to watch – at a cost of £900 – on screen at a lecture theatre next door.
In the last few weeks, the trust has written to the patients' families to apologise and plans to meet them.
But the number of deaths and suspension of surgery only came to light after a KM Group investigation.
Medical director Dr Paul Sigston said: "We are sorry that some patients did not receive the level of care and treatment that they should have due to potentially avoidable surgical complications.
"We are in contact with, and have apologised to, the families who have been affected and have been clear that we need to make improvements."
He added: "There are important lessons for us here and we are working hard to improve the care we provide to patients."
One family has already launched a clinical negligence claim.
Sharon Lam, from Thomson Snell and Passmore, acting for the widow of a 51-year-old father-of-one from Tonbridge, said: "There seem to be serious questions to be asked about the reliability of the procedure in question."
The man had keyhole surgery to remove a tumour in his oesophagus in 2013, but died from a massive haemorrhage five days after being discharged.
Patients with upper gastro intestinal cancer still have treatment at Maidstone, but go to St Thomas' for surgery. The arrangement is scheduled to last another 12 months.
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