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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Squabbling consultant surgeons have been compromising cardiac care at the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust hospital.

Surgery unit hobbled by rows between consultants - Independent


"A heart surgery unit with the highest death rate in the country failed to examine why patients were dying, did not tailor systems to cater for high-risk patients and was hobbled by disputes among consultant surgeons, an investigation has found.

In a scathing report with echoes of the Bristol children's heart surgery disaster of the 1990s, the Healthcare Commission, the NHS inspectorate, criticises the Oxford Radcliffe NHS Trust for failing to review the performance of its cardiac care unit and ensure it provided safe and effective care to heart patients over a period of almost a decade.

The investigation is the latest into the unit which was once one of the premier centres in Britain, which pioneered the use of motorised hearts under the leadership of the surgeon Stephen Westaby.

Mr Westaby clashed with another of the surgeons, Ravi Pillai, plunging the unit into disarray. The number of heart operations fell by a third and an inquiry by the NHS South East Regional Office, published in 2000, concluded that the unit was "on its knees" and "riven by internal conflict"."

"Nigel Ellis, the head of investigations at the Healthcare Commission, said: " We are critical of the trust for failing to respond to the previous reports. They have looked at the criticisms and, rather than reflect on their clinical practice, they have complained the data is inaccurate."

Mr Ellis said the findings echoed the Bristol children's heart surgery disaster in the 1990s, which revolutionised the regulation of the medical profession and led to the creation of the Healthcare Commission.

He said: "The whole point of collecting data is to use it to understand what happened ­ which [the Oxford Radcliffe Trust] failed to do. In that respect alone, their failure to reflect on their practice is similar to what happened in Bristol. The surgeons are not working together as a team ­ they need to agree a common way forward and they need to be led by the management of the trust." "