The deaths of 200 to 250 patients who died following heart surgery at an NHS trust are to be reviewed, it has been announced.
All the patients underwent surgery at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, between April 2013 and September 2018.
The hospital suspended complex heart operations last year after a leaked report suggested poor relationships between surgeons had contributed to a higher mortality rate.
The damning report was written by former NHS England deputy medical director Mike Beswick in response to higher mortality rates at the hospital. It was quoted as saying: “Some felt there was a persistent toxic atmosphere and stated there was a ‘dark force’ in the unit.”
It added: “In our view the whole team shares responsibility for the failure to significantly improve professional relationships and to a degree surgical mortality.”
The new review has been commissioned by NHS Improvement.
The panel will also review deaths between April 2017 and September 1 2018, a period during which improvements were being introduced by the trust.
The trust said families of cardiac surgery patients who died during the review period will be contacted if the panel identifies “any significant concerns about their care”.
Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive at St George’s, said: “It is absolutely essential that patients and their families have full confidence in the care our cardiac surgery team provide – and this review of past deaths will be a key part of that process.”
The review only applies to cardiac surgery at St George’s, and does not include other associated specialities – for example, cardiology.
The panel will examine the safety and quality of care that patients who died during or after cardiac surgery at St George’s received during the review period.
They will do this by reviewing the medical records of deceased cardiac surgery patients, as well as any investigations conducted by the Trust at the time of the patients’ deaths.
The panel is likely to review between 200-250 deaths as part of this process, which will take place between six and 12 months to complete.