Significant Heart Surgery Unit Shortcomings Led to 67 Deaths

Nicky Broyd

March 28, 2020

A report into historic failings in cardiac surgery at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London, found "significant shortcomings" in the care of 67 patients, which "either probably, most likely, or definitely contributed to their deaths".

The Trust says improvements have now been made.

'Toxic Atmosphere'

In 2018, an independent review, commissioned by the Trust, found a 'toxic atmosphere' within the cardiac surgery unit. As a result, complex planned and emergency cardiac operations were suspended.

Later that year, Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors found weak leadership and a culture of mistrust at the hospital.

New Report

Now the findings of an Independent External Mortality Review have been published by NHS Improvement.

Carried out by a panel of medical and surgical experts it examined the deaths of 202 patients who underwent heart surgery at St George’s in south London between 2013 and 2018.

It concluded there were "significant shortcomings" in the care of 102 patients, and that for 67 care failings "either probably, most likely, or definitely contributed to their deaths".

Unreserved Apology

The Trust has spoken and written to the families of all the patients whose care was reviewed and offered an unreserved apology to the families of those whose death was contributed to by failings in their care.

Chief Medical Officer at St George’s, Dr Richard Jennings, said in a statement: "We fully accept the panel’s findings, and we apologise unreservedly for the serious failings in care the review has identified. The care we provided in the past fell way short of the high standards our patients deserved. We have let these patients and their families down, for which I am deeply sorry."


A number of changes and improvements to working practices have been introduced and Dr Jennings said: "The heart surgery service at St George’s is now safe, and the current service is very different to the one the Trust took urgent steps to improve in 2017. These improvements were confirmed by the Care Quality Commission in their latest inspection report published in December 2019.

"We have either completed, or started to implement, the recommendations put forward by the panel" and he said, "There is still more work to do, but heart surgery patients should now be confident they will receive safe and effective care at St George’s."


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