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Maidstone Hospital specialist cancer surgeons not providing a safe service according to report

Surgeons performing a specialist type of cancer surgery at Maidstone Hospital were not providing a safe service to patients, a review has found.

Recommendations into laparascopic cancer surgery by the Royal College of Surgeons have just been made public.

The Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust has admitted five avoidable deaths happened, following upper GI cancer keyhole surgery during 2012-13.

The hospital trust has defended paying a consultant £200,000 in one year. File picture
The hospital trust has defended paying a consultant £200,000 in one year. File picture

Despite pressure for the full report to be revealed, hospital managers said only the recommendations would be published.

The Royal College review stated: “The upper gastro-intestinal surgeons in post have not been able to demonstrate sufficient attention to detail of surgical outcomes or clinical decision-making to provide a safe service to patients.”

It went further, adding that clinical decision-making must be improved, and particular attention needed to be paid to the treatment of patients with advanced cancer and monitoring for problems after an operation had to be strengthened.

A number of people, whose relatives died, have contacted Tunbridge Wells-based solicitors Thomson, Snell and Passmore.

One man, 70, who wished to remain anonymous, described the trauma of his 64-year-old wife dying in December 2012, a month after her procedure. She had oesophageal cancer.

After a spell in intensive care she complained of stomach pains and had to undergo a second operation, which found a hole in her colon.

NHS bosses are trying to plug a staff gap at Maidstone Hospital
NHS bosses are trying to plug a staff gap at Maidstone Hospital

Her husband said: “I have no idea why the hole was there. That is one of the unknowns.

“It is a question of just wanting some answers. I am not knocking any person.”

The hospital trust’s medical director, Paul Sigston, said: “We have now spoken with families of patients and have apologised for the failings in care.

“We are sorry that some patients did not receive the level of care and treatment they should have done due to potentially avoidable complications.”

Other findings from the report were that the surgical team needed to make ‘contemporaneous’ entries into patients’ records and there needed to be an appropriate treatment response to any post-operative complications.

It also needed to be clear to the wider team which surgeon had responsibility for each patient.

And the review found that not everyone in the team knew where the surgeons were. This became a critical problem if they needed advice about managing any problems that happened after an operation.

The RCS also believed independent experts should monitor the service and there should be regular appraisals for the surgical team.

The three gastro-intestinal surgeons mentioned in the report continue to work for the trust, but no longer carry out the type of surgery which is suspended. There were no concerns about mortality rates before 2012.

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