BICKERING between rival surgeons led to a rise in patient deaths at a troubled heart-surgery unit, a report claims.
Two factions created a “persistent toxic atmosphere” in the heart unit at St George’s Hospital in South London.
PA:Press Association/PA Images St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south west London, where a ‘toxic’ feud between two rival camps at a troubled heart-surgery unit at the hospital left staff feeling a high death rate was inevitable, according to a leaked report
Its cardiac surgery death rate was 3.7 per cent compared to the national average of two per cent.
Staff at the hospital, where Channel 4’s fly-on-the-wall documentary series 24 Hours in A&E is filmed, said a “dark force” was at work and made claims of incompetence and cover-ups.
The allegations emerged in a review led by Professor Mike Bewick, former deputy medical director of NHS England who quizzed 39 staff.
Internal scrutiny was said to be “inadequate” and the department was divided between “two camps” exhibiting “tribal-like activity”.
The damning review was written by former NHS England deputy medical director Mike Bewick in response to higher mortality rates at the hospital
Professor Bewick’s review was quoted as saying: “Some felt that there was a persistent toxic atmosphere and stated that 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.”
Conversations with staff revealed they were shocked by the death rate, but “most felt that poor performance was inevitable due to the pervading atmosphere”.
The independent reviewer examined “disturbing and often difficult information”, concluding an “existential threat” was posed to the unit because staff and patients would go elsewhere if problems persisted.
24 Hours in A&E, the real life documentary of a busy emergency department
“The surgical team is viewed as dysfunctional both internally and externally,” he said.
Stronger leadership and “new blood” were called for, while the “defensive approach” the unit took to death rate data was criticised, according to reports.
The review was additionally said to have called for “radical solutions to breaking up the current surgical team”.
A spokesman for St George’s Hospital said recommendations from Professor Bewick were being implemented “at pace”, including the immediate relocation of all cardiac surgeons to a single-speciality practice.
Channel 4 The team at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, who star on Channel 4’s fly on the wall documentary 24 Hours in A&E
The investigation commissioned in June after the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR) issued an alert over the unit’s lower surgery survival rates.
The hospital spokesman said: “We would like to stress that the cardiac surgery service we provide for patients is safe.
“However, it is very clear that major and urgent improvements are required, which we are already taking action to deliver. ”