Baby Death Hospital Criticised

John Radcliffe Hospital Criticised

29.07.2010

Standards of care at a leading hospital in Oxford where four babies died were "not what was expected", a health boss has said.

A major report on children's heart surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital said the paediatric heart surgery unit should remain suspended until arrangements are made for improving care.

Four babies were all treated by the same surgeon and died within three months at the hospital. Their deaths, between last December and February, prompted the temporary closure of the unit in March and the launch of an investigation by the NHS South Central strategic health authority (SHA).

Its chairman, Dr Geoffrey Harris, apologised to the families of those babies who died. He said: "We offer our sincere condolences and we apologise that, in the cases, the standards of care were not what was expected."

Surgeon Caner Salih, who operated on the four babies, is said to have complained about the age of equipment and poor working practices at the paediatric care unit, asking for operations to cease. The report does not criticise his care. All four baby deaths occurred under Mr Salih's care shortly after his appointment at the unit.

The report included a review of death rates, and found that among 15 patients operated on by the new surgeon, the death rate was 4.8 times higher than would be expected from a national rate. But the panel noted "all the cases were complex and surgery was high risk".

The report said: "In Mr Salih's four cases, we found no evidence of poor surgical practice, but that he would have benefited from help or mentoring by a more experienced surgeon; and that it was an error of judgment for him to undertake the fourth case."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Lisa Jordan at Irwin Mitchell said: “We welcome the investigation that is taking place.  The unit offers a valuable service to the community and care needs to be improved so that this is able to continue, but until then we support the decision to suspend service.”