Surgeon’s feud put patients at risk

Tribalism and petty behaviours are not uncommon in an obsessive profession. To get to the top in Surgery you need to be slightly OCD, and that is how I want my surgeon. But it does not mean he will manage people well….. The Health Services need to do Exit Interviews on all, and summarise the results. Sifting out unsuitable leaders is important but unfortunately so few aspire to be leading managers that there is often little choice..

Nicola Harley in the Telegraph reports 10th June that “Top surgeon suspended as ‘patient safety’ threatened in rows between rival departments”

ne of the country’s top surgeons has been suspended after a report revealed patients’ lives were put at risk as a result of a bitter feud at a leading teaching hospital.

An urgent review into standards at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was called after tensions between the vascular and radiology departments reached breaking point.

The two departments had been involved in a dispute with each other over who should care for individual patients.

It has led to the suspension of Professor Matt Thompson, a consultant vascular surgeon who was Clinical Director for Cardiovascular Services at St George’s, by the Trust on Tuesday.

The Trust has taken immediate action and been forced to call in a team from a neighbouring hospital to run its departments.

The move came after an external review found “standards of behaviour” in the departments were “far below” what was expected.

The review was carried out by the Royal College of Surgeons, the Vascular Society of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Royal College of Radiologists.

“The review is detailed and wide-ranging, but key among its findings was that owing to a breakdown in relationships between the two teams, patients could come to harm in the future if the current problems are not addressed,” a spokesperson for St George’s told the Telegraph.

“We are deeply disappointed that the standards of behaviour described in the report fall far below the high standards we expect of staff at St George’s.

“Our number one priority is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our patients.  As a result, we have taken some immediate steps to improve the situation for the benefit of patients, and support staff based within both services.

“The most significant of these changes is that we have asked a team from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust to help us deliver vascular services for patients at St George’s. They have begun assisting us this week.”

It is understood there have been ongoing concerns over a number of months and trainees were removed from both departments as a result.

Many vascular operations have become keyhole procedures performed by vascular surgeons and usually both sets of specialists work together deciding which patients each speciality should treat.

At St George’s the two teams have been in dispute over who should treat which patients.

Patients are continuing to be referred to St George’s.

A spokesperson for Guy’s and St Thomas’ said it was in discussions with St George’s over the services it could provide.

Prof Thompson was the clinical director for three London-wide reconfigurations of cardiovascular disease, major trauma and emergency services. He also chaired the clinical reference group for vascular services.

He is Honorary Secretary of the British Society for Endovascular Therapy and is leading a review into the delivery of Cardiovascular Services in London.

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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