Health Minister David Anderson MHK has today accused the Liberal Vannin Party’s Health spokesperson Kate Beecroft MHK of waging a “misleading and alarming” campaign against Noble’s Hospital.
Mr Anderson was responding to the latest press release from Liberal Vannin repeating allegations that the Health Department has misled Tynwald. The party has also published extracts from a confidential report on colorectal surgery at the hospital.
The Minister said: “Mrs Beecroft is very quick to accuse other people of making misleading statements but in her campaign against Noble’s Hospital it is she who is misleading the public, and causing unnecessary alarm in the process. It is disappointing to see Liberal Vannin once again playing political football with the Island’s health service, which is unsettling for patients as well as for staff.
“Liberal Vannin has been highly selective, and highly irresponsible, in publishing on its website some very limited extracts from the independent expert’s report of the investigation into colorectal surgery at Noble’s hospital which examined four specific cases. No professional context or perspective is provided, and there is no reference to the key point that the author of the report believed it would be safe to resume colorectal services at Noble’s.”
The Minister added: “As far as the allegations of misleading Tynwald are concerned, Mrs Beecroft seems to be attempting to recycle old news to keep her campaign against Noble’s Hospital going. There is nothing new here and the Department is already working with the relevant Tynwald committees to clarify the background to these matters.”
Mr Anderson went on: “Let us remind ourselves of the facts. It was Noble’s Hospital’s senior management who proactively arranged for a review of bowel surgery having seen a trend in complications over a short period of time. The utmost caution was taken to maintain patient safety, with on-Island elective bowel surgery suspended when issues came to light, and patients needing elective surgery referred to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital during the suspension. Complications in bowel surgery of the nature seen at Noble’s Hospital are not necessarily uncommon as bowel surgery is an extremely complex procedure, and patients requiring this sort of treatment are often quite poorly and can have multiple medical conditions, increasing the risk associated with major surgery. Nonetheless the action taken by Noble’s Hospital was quite proper and prudent, and the team are to be commended for taking the appropriate steps.
“External reviews by independent clinicians from other NHS hospitals is a practical and routine means of externally assessing a service when issues arise such as those seen here with bowel surgery. Any and all surgery carries some level of risk – some procedures being more high risk than others – and the Department and Noble’s Hospital does its utmost to ensure that all surgery is carried out as safely and effectively as possible.
“So first and foremost the Department was proactive in taking steps to address and investigate the situation, and made the public aware of this through its press releases. I am therefore deeply concerned that Liberal Vannin has chosen to publish extracts of a report which they know the author intended to be private and confidential and the recommendations of which the Department is continuing its work to implement. We live in a small, close-knit community and as such it’s vitally important that the confidentiality of patients and, where appropriate, clinicians is safeguarded. It is hardly surprising to see that the extracts which Liberal Vannin has published are extremely selective, and act only to serve their approach of continuing to undermine the good work of the Island’s medical profession. Patient safety remains the Department’s number one priority, and I think the self-imposed suspension and review of bowel surgery demonstrates that. The key recommendations of the report have already been put in place. Playing unnecessary political games with our health service does nothing but distract clinicians from the on-going drive to improve patient care.
“In terms of the comments made by the Department’s Chief Executive when he and I appeared before the Social Affairs Policy Review Committee in January, I can confirm that procedures have been invoked to investigate this. I and my Chief Executive have complete faith in the work being undertaken by Noble’s Hospital. Let us also remember that Noble’s Hospital – along with the other areas of the Health Service – will undergo an independent external review by the West Midlands Quality Review Service, which I announced at the July sitting of Tynwald.”
The Minister concluded: “Whilst the report into colorectal surgery should remain private and confidential to protect the identities of patients named within it, I can advise that the independent external Consultant Colorectal Surgeon who undertook the review recorded their general feeling that it would be safe to resume elective colorectal services at Noble’s Hospital.”
The Medical Director at Noble’s Hospital, Mr Stephen Upsdell said “It is understandable that the temporary suspension of elective colorectal surgery I announced in November of last year caused some concern amongst the public. It is not uncommon for a health care organisation to take such steps as part of a robust process of patient safety and governance. As I have said previously, we have a responsibility to ensure the highest quality of care for all our patients. Noble’s Hospital does not shy away from this responsibility, which is why we were open and transparent with the public and staff when temporarily suspending elective colorectal surgery at the end of last year.
“Following this suspension in service an independent external review was commissioned into the four cases which had caused concern, undertaken by a Consultant Colorectal Surgeon from an English NHS Teaching Hospital. The external reviewer visited the Island and was given unhindered access to patient records, the wards, the Intensive Care Unit, the theatre complex and the staff involved in the care of the patients concerned. The recommendations contained in his investigative report have been incorporated in their entirety into an action plan. The immediate changes required in this action plan have already been put in place which has allowed us to safely resume colorectal surgery at Noble’s Hospital.
“The performance of all clinical staff is subject to regular scrutiny through the investigation of complaints and incidents, regular review of complications, and through the process of annual appraisal which forms the basis of the General Medical Council’s revalidation of all doctors. Revalidation is the process by which licensed doctors are required to demonstrate on a regular basis that they are up to date and fit to practise. All practising doctors in the Isle of Man are subject to revalidation by the GMC.
“Every healthcare organisation in the world recognises that avoidable harm does occur and that this is often due to human error. It is the responsibility of all healthcare organisations to put in place measures which reduce the risk of such harm. The actions taken by Noble’s Hospital demonstrate our commitment to this principle of safe and effective healthcare.”