‘Toxic’ feud between surgeons affected performance at London unit

‘Toxic’ feud between rival surgeons affected staff’s performance at London hospital heart surgery unit with alarmingly high death rate

  • Two rival teams of surgeons were locked in a ‘toxic’ workplace war in London 
  • St George’s Hospital heart unit had a surgery death rate 2% above the average 
  • A leaked report claimed there was a ‘dark force’ in the unit because of rivalry 

Rival teams of Surgeons locked in a workplace war put patients’ lives at risk according to a damning review of their practice.

St George’s Hospital heart unit was consumed by a ‘dark force’ because of a ‘toxic’ feud, it has been found.

The south London facility had a cardiac surgery death rate of 3.7% – above the national 2% average, a leaked report said.

A damning review written by former NHS England deputy medical director Mike Bewick came in the wake of the higher mortality rates at the hospital.

He concluded there had been two rival camps who were exhibiting ‘tribal-like activity’.

Internal scrutiny was said to be ‘inadequate’ and the department was so dysfunctional it left staff feeling a high death rate was inevitable. 

St George’s Hospital heart unit was suffering from a ‘dark force’ and the mortality rate rose, a report which has been leaked, found

Professor Bewick’s review was quoted as saying: ‘Some felt that there was a persistent toxic atmosphere and stated that there was a ‘dark force’ in the unit.

‘In our view the whole team shares responsibility for the failure to significantly improve professional relationships and to a degree surgical mortality.’

Conversations with 39 staff revealed they were shocked by the death rate, but ‘most felt that poor performance was inevitable due to the pervading atmosphere’.

The independent reviewer examined ‘disturbing and often difficult information’, concluding an ‘existential threat’ was posed to the unit because staff and patients would go elsewhere if problems persisted.

‘The surgical team is viewed as dysfunctional both internally and externally,’ he said.

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Stronger leadership and ‘new blood’ were called for, while the ‘defensive approach’ the unit took to death rate data was criticised, according to reports.

The review was additionally said to have called for ‘radical solutions to breaking up the current surgical team’.

A spokesman for St George’s Hospital said recommendations from Professor Bewick were being implemented ‘at pace’, including the immediate relocation of all cardiac surgeons to a single-speciality practice.

The investigation commissioned in June after the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR) issued an alert over the unit’s lower surgery survival rates.

The hospital spokesman said: ‘We would like to stress that the cardiac surgery service we provide for patients is safe.

Surgeons were on ‘rival’ sides in what ended up as a toxic environment at the heart surgery unit at St George’s hospital 

‘However, it is very clear that major and urgent improvements are required, which we are already taking action to deliver. ‘

St George’s, one of the biggest teaching hospitals in the country, has advertised for an additional consultant cardiologist to join the team.

Fellow London hospital Guy’s and St Thomas’s Foundation Trust will send ‘on the ground leadership support’ in the form of cardiac surgeons, the spokesman said.

Officials are additionally ‘addressing concerns’ about the way surgery data is managed.

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