Independent panel called in to oversee struggling cardiac surgery service

An NHS Improvement oversight body has been called in by a struggling London teaching trust in a bid to improve standards at its cardiac surgery unit.

St George’s University Hospital Trust announced today that the external panel will be brought in to “deal with the long-standing issues” faced by its cardiac surgical service.

The trust’s heart surgery unit has been in the headlines recently: just last week a barred heart surgeon at the trust won the latest stage of her High Court battle after allegations of bullying in the unit. Earlier in August, a leaked report outlined “toxic bickering” between rival camps at the cardiac facility.

Now, St George’s, which was rated as ‘requires improvement’ in its July CQC inspection, has said it has taken the decision to ask NHS Improvement to oversee the work it is doing to improve the service.

Chief executive of the trust Jacqueline Totterdell said the trust “is already taking action” to address the issues within the surgical unit, and noted that they are confident NHS Improvement will provide “further external oversight” of the work being done.

“My priority – and that of the trust board – is to ensure patients receive safe, high quality care at all times – and today’s announcement reinforces that. This remains our focus,” added Totterdell.

“Yesterday, we met with our partners and had extremely helpful discussions on the challenges we face, and next steps to improve cardiac surgery services at St George’s.

“Finally, we remain committed to ensuring our staff have strong and professional working relationships, in a learning environment where they can speak up safely.”

The make-up of the independent panel will be agreed shortly, but will involve senior clinicians and managers from external organisations.

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Image credit: Jonathan Stilwell PA


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