Heart surgery patient deaths probed after claims of "toxic" row between surgeons

Up to 250 deaths of patients after heart surgery at a hospital are to be investigated.

A previous leaked report suggested a “toxic” row between surgeons at the cardiac unit contributed to mortality rates.

Deaths from April 2013 to September 2018 at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, South West London, will be reviewed.

The Trust said families of cardiac surgery patients who died in that period will be told if the panel identifies “any significant concerns about their care”.

Health service regulator NHS Improvement’s review comes after complex heart surgery was suspended in September.

The leaked report last year said a feud between two camps at the heart unit left staff feeling a high death rate was inevitable.

At the time, it said the cardiac surgery death rate was 3.7%. The national average is 2%.

The report included conversations with 39 staff – shocked by the rate, but “most felt poor performance was inevitable due to the pervading atmosphere”.

Care Quality Commission last month reported finding “strong” personalities unable to work together effectively. Its follow-up report said “consultant surgeons mistrusted each other, as well as cardiologists, anaesthetists and senior leaders”.

The review will examine medical records plus any probes by the Trust at the time.

St George’s chief Jacqueline Totterdell said: “It is absolutely essential that patients and their families have full confidence in the care our cardiac surgery team provide. This review will be a key part of that process.”

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