Expert Lawyers Say RCS Report Must Be Made Public To Victims Desperate For Answers
By Helen MacGregor
Expert medical negligence lawyers representing people and families affected by alleged negligent treatment by a cancer surgeon, who had double the death rate of his colleagues, have demanded that a report into his working practices is made public to provide those treated by him with the answers they deserve.
Jennifer Emerson, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell, says the law firm is receiving enquiries on a daily basis in relation to treatment by colorectal cancer surgeon Sudip Sarker.
Jennifer says there are serious concerns about how he was able to continue practising for so long despite concerns about his treatment being raised to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) months before he was excluded from the NHS Trust.
Families who have lost loved ones under his care have also branded reports about false claims on his CV and high death and complication rates as ‘shocking’.
The 44-year-old surgeon joined Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS 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 RCS, it was a further three months before Mr Sarker was excluded.
The Trust is continuing to investigate and the General Medical Council (GMC) has now placed restrictions on his license as they continue to review complaints from concerned patients.
A joint inquest into three of Mr Sarker’s patient deaths is due to take place before the Coroner for Worcestershire on 11th July 2013.
But Jennifer Emerson at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, investigating a number of cases, has criticised the communication by the Trust to patients and says they should have been made aware of the report findings much sooner, rather than reading about it in the press.
She said: “It is appalling that the RCS report has not been made public, leaving concerned patients and their families effectively in limbo wondering what and why it has gone wrong and what is being done to prevent it from happening again.
“We have serious concerns about the death rates and surgery complication figures we have seen reported in the news, but are as equally concerned by the fact that it seems colleagues were so concerned about Mr Sarker that they reported him to the RCS, yet he was allowed to continue working within the Trust for a further three months.
“The clients that we represent were not notified about the complaints made about Mr Sarker in July, despite being seen by him after that date and they are disappointed that they have had to hear about the figures relating to Mr Sarker’s death rates in the press, rather than the Trust communicating them.
“My clients, other patients and their families who believe they fell victim to negligent surgery by Mr Sarker deserve answers about the investigation and the Trust should also be looking to provide reassurance that everything possible is being done to get to the bottom of how he was allowed to make such potentially grave errors.”
Figures reported in the news last week said the RCS had compared a 75-strong sample of Mr Sarker’s patient cases against those of two other doctors working in similar fields.
Experts looked at 43 and 50 cases for the two other doctors respectively and found Mr Sarker had an eight per cent 28-day mortality rate, with six of his patients in the sample dying within that period – double one of the other doctors who had a four per cent rate (two deaths). The third doctor had a rate of 2.3 per cent (one death).
The RCS also found that 16 per cent of Mr Sarker’s patients returned to theatre within 30 days of surgery, compared to 4.7 per cent with one of the other doctors and none with the third doctor.
Following the investigation, the RCS also claimed some of Mr Sarker’s patient case notes appeared to have been amended post surgery.
The Trust is examining the case of widow Jean Thomas, from Tanworth-in-Arden, who was diagnosed with colon cancer by Mr Sarker and first underwent surgery by him on 14 May last year at Alexandra Hospital, Redditch.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell is working on behalf of Mrs Thomas’ estate who are concerned that Mr Sarker inappropriately recommended keyhole surgery, rather than open surgery and the surgery he did perform was poor meaning Jean needed follow-up surgery two weeks later.
She was readmitted to hospital three more times before she died on September 15, two months after Mr Sarker had been reported to the RCS. She died of suspected multiple organ failure, having suffered from sepsis in the weeks after her first operation.
William (Bill) Jones
Experts at Irwin Mitchell are also representing the family of Bill Jones who died of septic shock one week after undergoing surgery by Mr Sarker to treat bowel cancer.
The father-of-four and grand-father of seven, from Bewdley in Worcestershire, was admitted to Redditch Hospital for surgery to remove cancer from his bowel on 30 May 2012 but his family were led to believe that he had to undergo a repair procedure before being brought round from the anaesthetic due to internal bleeding
Bill appeared to make a reasonable recovery although remained in intensive care before suffering a rapid deterioration and his family were shocked at how ill he had become.
Son Simon MIddup-Jones, 52, a Project Manager, said: “On 5 June we were called and told we should get to hospital immediately because my dad’s condition had deteriorated.
“After a slight improvement overnight the family returned the next day to be told he was passing away. We just couldn’t believe he had become so poorly as quickly as he had. Sadly there was nothing that could be done and he died the following day on the 6th June.
“We have asked lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the standard of care my Dad was given and the potential delay in recognising the infection and treating it.
“We are very worried about the shocking reports emerging that show concerns about Sudip Sarker’s working practices and qualifications and would like answers as quickly as possible about the Royal College of Surgeon’s findings so we can begin to come to terms with exactly what happened with my dad’s care.
“Before Dad went for this surgery we had no idea of any possible concerns about Mr Sarker’s working practices and we put our faith in the hospital and his expertise. We are learning more and more in the press as times goes by but are frustrated that we cannot find out what happened during the operation or as a result of it.”
Bill left behind a wife Beth, four children, Timothy, Melinda, Ceri and Simon and seven grandchildren.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of surgical negligence, we may be able to help you claim compensation. See our Medical Negligence Guide for more information.