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Heart Surgery survival rate under scrutiny at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham

According to information from The Guardian, statistics for survival rates of heart surgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham are being investigated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Whilst final reports are yet to emerge and the hospital themselves are yet to address any potential issues, figures potentially show that 17 more people died than should have in the last three years at the unit.

Whilst the numbers may seem small, any problem (if there is one) of any scale is of no comfort to family members of anyone who has not survived heart surgery at the hospital.

According to the news source, the CQC visited the hospital before Christmas 2015 after concerns about the survival rate for open heart surgery were raised. The CQC team that visited the hospital (which included surgeons from other hospitals) even considered closing down the unit following their review, but an option for weekly reporting has been adopted instead. It’s notable that the CQC Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said:

“Our inspectors found significant concerns particularly with regard to the safety, effectiveness and responsiveness of the service.”

The death rates are said to be ‘substantially’ outside of an acceptable range which suggests there may be a problem, particularly as the CQC considered shutting them down. Details remain uncertain at this time in the absence of the final reports from the CQC that are supposed to be published soon.

It’s also worthwhile pointing out that the statistics are adjusted to factor in patients who may not survive because of their age or health, meaning the higher rate of death appears to be higher in real terms as opposed to being the result of external or unavoidable incidents.

What the Trust has had to say

The Trust currently disputes the findings on the grounds that they allegedly include figures from a heart surgeon named Ian Wilson who was sacked and is currently facing disciplinary proceedings for altering mortality figures, and because they do not account for statistics from the private operations provided by their surgeons.

In addition, whilst they do apparently accept that the death rate is high, potential problems (existent or otherwise) have been blamed on a ‘cluster of deaths‘ attributable to one surgeon who was later sacked, and also to a surgeon who passed away resulting in locums assisting with procedures.

Is there anything to be concerned about here?

We think it’s too early to tell, particularly in the absence of any proper evidence from the CQC.

We investigate and act for victims of medical negligence – both individually and in group actions – so we will keep an eye on whether there is anything for us to investigate here.

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