Maidstone Hospital Suspends Surgery After Five Deaths

NHS Trust Investigates Avoidable Surgery Complications


An NHS Trust in Kent has suspended upper GI surgery after it was revealed potentially avoidable surgical complications may have contributed to the deaths of five cancer patients.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has been informed after five patients died within a year after undergoing upper gastrointestinal (GI) surgery at Maidstone Hospital, run by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust.

After conducting its own internal inquiry, the Trust said "while members of staff have been held to account, their overall standard of practice does not support further sanctions".

The internal enquiry involved an assessment by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) which highlighted that the service had a higher-than-expected complication rate in 2012 and last year, resulting in longer post-operative recovery times for some patients.

The Trust is now sending patients requiring Upper GI surgery to St Thomas' Hospital in central London which will continue for 12 months while the Trust tries to improve its upper GI cancer surgery service.

In a statement, the Trust said: "The trust's review has since established that while the outcomes for patients who had this surgery were within expected levels, including one and three years survival, surgical complications may have contributed to the deaths of five patients in its care during 2012/13.

"These were associated with the use of laparoscopic techniques and were potentially avoidable."

Expert Opinion
Whilst we are pleased to see that quick action has been taken by the Trust, these revelations are deeply concerning.

“The families who lost loved ones as a result of potentially avoidable complications deserve answers about how it was possible for this to happen and what action the Trust is taking to safeguard procedures once it re-opens its services.

“The Trust also must confirm that it has taken every possible step to communicate with patients or families who may have been affected by post-operative complications to ensure no further lives are put at risk.

“Lessons learnt from this case, whether it involves training or resource, must be shared throughout the NHS to ensure patient safety if protected and the same mistakes cannot be repeated elsewhere.”

“We hope the GMC will now also investigate thoroughly to ensure all medical staff involved are held to account where appropriate.”
Auriana Griffiths, Partner