Patients Of Surgeon Sudip Sarker Question Thoroughness Of NHS Trust’s Recall Process

Medical Negligence Lawyers Say Clients Deserve Transparency From Trust After Being Put Through ‘Hell’

17.12.2014

Expert medical lawyers representing patients who underwent negligent bowel procedures at the hands of a suspended Worcester surgeon say their clients remain frustrated that the NHS Trust responsible has taken no steps to reassure victims that safeguards have been put in place to prevent the same scandal occurring again.

Medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell representing over 20 patients and concerned relatives who lost loved ones following treatment by Sudip Sarker say that despite Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust admitting liability and settling a number of cases, it has still not confirmed to the victims or their lawyers the remit of its own investigations and what lessons will be learnt.

The firm says that many of its clients did not receive recall letters from the Trust and only learnt they might be at risk through reading reports in the press, prompting questions as to whether the Trust did enough to contact those who might need further care and support.

Mr Sarker joined the Trust in August 2011 specialising in colon and bowel cancer treatment with keyhole surgery. He treated patients at Alexandra and Worcester Royal Hospital in Redditch and performed work for a number of private hospitals.

However, despite concerns being raised by Trust managers in July 2012 to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Mr Sarker was able to continue to operate on patients for a further three months before he was finally excluded.

An investigation by the RCS found his death rates were twice as high as his colleagues and the General Medical Council (GMC) has now placed restrictions on his license. The police are also investigating however no charges have yet been made and the inquest into three patients who died following treatment by Mr Sarker is on hold until the police investigation is complete.

Expert Opinion
It is now over a year since the Trust confirmed Mr Sarker had been suspended and that it was launching a recall of his former patients.

“However, despite a number of our clients being contacted by the Trust to assist with its investigations, at no stage has the remit of what is being investigated been disclosed, leaving patients wondering whether they will ever truly get the answers they desperately need to come to terms with what has happened as well as reassurance that measures have been put in place to prevent a repeat scandal from occurring.

“We are also concerned that there may still be patients who were treated by Mr Sarker who are unaware of the potential complications they face. The Trust said it would recall all those who were at risk but a number of our clients with on-going health problems have confirmed they only learnt of Mr Sarker’s suspension through reports in the press. Others were informed by their GP rather than the Trust directly which could obviously have resulted in a delay in gaining access to the appropriate support.”

“We are pleased the Trust is working swiftly to settle our client’s claims, but for the vast majority of them this is not about the money. They want answers about how it was ever possible for Mr Sarker to get away with performing substandard surgery over a prolonged period and they want accountability.

“The Trust must reassure them that every possible step is being taken to protect patient safety as well as confirm that the findings of its internal investigations will be communicated openly and transparently to all those affected so they can try and begin to understand how it was possible for them to become caught up in such an unimaginable scandal. It is the least they deserve after being put through utter hell, which for many of them is on-going now as they continue to need further treatment as a direct result of Mr Sarker’s substandard techniques.

“The findings must also be communicated throughout the NHS to ensure lessons are learnt nationwide to prevent another individual being able to cause such terrible suffering to vulnerable patients again.”
Hannah Wallace, Solicitor
Case Study – Roy Fuchco

Roy is a 59-year-old man who was treated at the Alexandra Hospital for bowel cancer and had successful open surgery in 2009 to remove the cancerous cells.

In 2011 a polyp was discovered which confirmed the presence of further cancerous cells and he was referred immediately to the Alexandra Hospital where he was told that he needed urgent keyhole surgery which would be performed by Mr Sarker.

In early 2012, Roy underwent the surgery which he was aware could result in a stoma (external pouch to remove waste), but was not told until after the procedure by Mr Sarker that it would not be reversible.

When he woke from surgery, Roy was shocked to discover he had a large wound around his belly button that had not been stapled because Mr Sarker had converted the procedure to open surgery mid-way through following complications. Roy was also informed that his bowel had been removed.

Over the following days, Roy continued to be in and out of hospital due to suffering dehydration associated with a high stoma output, suffering from hospital acquired pneumonia and an infection in his wound.

Over the following weeks, Roy lost eight stones because of dehydration and was eventually diagnosed with Celiac disease after being referred by his GP to a different hospital.

Expert evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell, which has been instructed to investigate the care Roy received, expressed criticism of the standard of surgery procedure performed by Mr Sarker. It was revealed that Mr Sarker had failed to remove all of Roy’s bowel and in fact his rectal stump had been left. Roy now requires regular medical observation to check for development of cancer in the retained stump and he faces the prospect of further surgery to remove the stump in order to eradicate the risk of cancer that currently hangs over him.