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Spinal surgery has been suspended at Warrington & Halton NHS Trust following four serious incidents, two of which resulted in the death of a patient.
Warrington & Halton NHS Trust have stated that they have suspended all spinal surgery as a precautionary measure following a series of serious incidents between March and August this year.
An investigation into the serious incidents is due to take place, but it is thought that the deaths of the two patients who were undergoing spinal surgery were attributable to medical complications rather than as a direct result of the surgery. The Royal College of Surgeons will now undertake a comprehensive review of the Trusts spinal operations and services to determine what further action needs to be taken in order to reduce the occurrence of serious incidents going forward.
The Trust currently conducts spinal operations on approximately 1,600 patients a year, with those currently awaiting surgical procedures now being sent to other nearby Trusts and potentially facing increased waiting times. The news to suspend surgical procedures has wide reaching consequences both for patients who have recently undergone spinal surgery within the Trust who may now be concerned over the level of medical expertise throughout their surgical procedure. However, those currently awaiting procedures are potentially subject to increased waiting times following their referral to a separate NHS Trust as well as the potential inconvenience of having to travel and receive treatment from a separate NHS Trust . This could in certain circumstances lead to a potential increase in spinal injury compensation claims from those who have suffered as a direct consequence.
NHS England have supported the decision to suspend surgery with Dr Michael Gregory, the organisation’s clinical director (North of England) for specialised commissioning stating:
“We are working with the trust to better understand the nature of an increase seen in reported incidents for spinal surgery services, so we can identify if there is anything that might be done differently to improve patient outcomes and the quality of care provided…. Our focus at this stage is to agree what support is needed for patients with appointments in the coming days and weeks. We will link with regional specialists for spinal care to ensure those affected by any disruption to services get the appropriate treatment and care they need as a matter of priority.”
The cancellation of all spinal surgery at Warrington & Halton NHS Trust is expected to last until the comprehensive review has been undertaken and any corrective action required has been fully implemented in order to reduce the occurrence of any serious incidents going forward. This will also directly impact those seeking to pursue a medical negligence claim as a result.