30 March 2013
Last updated at 09:11 ET
Clinicians say the ‘wrong’ data was used by NHS managers
Children’s heart surgery was wrongly suspended at Leeds General Infirmary because of “incomplete” information, a senior doctor has said.
The unit was shut after the NHS medical director said data showed mortality figures were higher than expected.
But cardiologist Elspeth Brown said the data did not include all the operations, and that staff were confident in their clinical work.
NHS managers say various factors contributed to the suspension.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh said data suggested a death rate twice the national average, and that concerns had been raised about junior staff.
Ms Brown told the BBC that, since the announcement, she and colleagues had been examining the data that was used to make the decision.
“We do now know that the figures that were presented… were simply wrong, they were incomplete, did not include all the operations in Leeds, and that they had then been subject to some statistical analysis which generated this headline figure.
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We need people to stop attacking us, and we need to resume surgery as soon as possible”
“We’ve been looking very hard at the figures over the last three years and we are confident that our mortality figures are well within what would be expected. All the clinicians in Leeds are very happy with our figures at present.”
The hospital is at the centre of a long-running dispute over the future of children’s heart services, and an NHS review said surgery would be better focused at fewer, larger sites.
However, the High Court ruled just last week that the Leeds unit should be kept open – a move that was superseded a day later by Sir Bruce suspending surgery.
Ms Brown said that it must be worrying for families of patients, but that as clinicians they were “completely confident in our service”.
“We need to put this to bed. We need people to stop attacking us, and we need to resume surgery as soon as possible.”
Children who would have been treated in Leeds will be sent to other hospitals around England while a review, expected to last three weeks, is carried out.
Sir Bruce had been contacted by, among others, Professor Sir Roger Boyle, director of the National Institute of Clinical Outcomes Research, which oversees mortality figures across the NHS.
Sir Roger told BBC Breakfast that concerns were raised that two “relatively junior surgeons” had been left in charge of the unit, as well as from families of patients who claimed their requests to be transferred to other units were ignored.
“To have two relatively inexperienced people holding fort, without the ability for any senior advice, is a precarious situation in my view.
“It’s a question of experience and fine balance between being able to offer a safe service and one that is precarious.”
However, Ms Brown said there were two locum consultants who had been in their posts for six months, and although they were “relatively junior in their consultant career but they are both very experienced surgeons, and I have no concerns about them whatsoever.”