–       NHS Improvement has published an independent cardiac surgery mortality review today (Thursday,26 March 2020)

–       Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, offers unreserved apology for failings in care

–       The heart surgery service at St George’s is now safe, and improvements have been put in place

St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has today (Thursday 26 March) responded to the publication of the independent cardiac surgery mortality review commissioned by NHS Improvement.

The review – carried out by an independent panel of medical and surgical experts – examined the deaths of 202 patients who underwent heart surgery at St George’s Hospital in south London between 2013 and 2018.

The panel’s report – published today – concludes there were failings in the care provided to 102 patients at St George’s during this period, and that for 67 patients these care failings either definitely, most likely or probably contributed to their deaths.

The Trust wrote to the relatives of heart surgery patients included in the review in 2019. Families were contacted by the Trust again earlier this month – by telephone and letter – to inform them of the panel’s findings in relation to individual patients, as well as to offer support and a meeting. A number of meetings with families have already taken place.

‘We have let many of our patients down”

Dr Richard Jennings, Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, said:

“We fully accept the panel’s findings, and we apologise unreservedly for the serious failings in care the review has identified. The care we provided in the past fell way short of the high standards our patients deserved. We have let these patients and their families down, for which I am deeply sorry.”

In 2017, the Trust set up a Cardiac Surgery Task Force to address long-standing problems within the unit at St George’s. A number of changes and improvements to working practices were introduced as a result, and by March 2018, heart surgery mortality rates at St George’s were back within the expected range*, where they have remained since.

Dr Jennings added:

“The heart surgery service at St George’s is now safe, and the current service is very different to the one the Trust took urgent steps to improve in 2017. These improvements were confirmed by the Care Quality Commission in their latest inspection report published in December 2019.”

“We have either completed, or started to implement, the recommendations put forward by the panel in their review published today. There is still more work to do, but heart surgery patients should now be confident they will receive safe and effective care at St George’s.”

NHS Improvement has today also published a report published by a separate independent scrutiny panel set up in 2018 to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the Trust as it implemented a series of actions to improve the service, and maintain safety.

Changes introduced at St George’s over the past two years include the appointment of a senior cardiac surgeon from outside the organisation to lead the service; all new heart surgery cases being reviewed by a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals; plus the introduction of a new system enabling the Trust to monitor mortality and morbidity data in real-time.

Notes to editors

*Cardiac surgery outcomes at St George’s for the most up to date review period (April 2015-March 2018) are back within the normal or expected range. The normal or expected range is determined by the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR), which collects patient outcome data for all 31 heart surgery centres nationally. For further information, visit www.nicor.org.uk


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