Barrow Hospital Trust ‘Ignoring’ Complex Surgery Guidelines

THE hospital trust which delivers care to South Cumbria is among a number in England ignoring safety guidelines for a complex surgical procedure. It means the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is potentially putting patients at risk, health care analysts have warned.

Experts recommend that hospitals carry out a minimum number of highly-technical operations to ensure that surgeons’ skills are up-to-date. But data specialist Dr Foster said that 21 NHS trusts are continuing to perform abdominal aortic aneurysm repairs even though they carry out too few operations to meet clinical standards.

The organisation examined the number of aneurysm repairs carried out by each hospital trust. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a potentially life-threatening weakening in the wall of the major artery and the operation to repair it requires “skilled teamwork”, a Dr Foster spokesman said. The Vascular Society recommends that over a three year period, each hospital trust which performs aneurysm repairs should conduct at least 100 operations to maintain appropriate levels of skill. But Dr Foster found that 21 trusts – among them UHMBT – performed less than 100 of these surgeries over the last three years.

George Nasmyth, medical director at UHMBT, said: “We would like to reassure patients coming for treatment that your services are safe. However, there is a clinical case for change which recommends the development of specialist centres to provide high-risk, low-volume services in the future. A full review of Cumbria and Lancashire vascular services recommended that, in the future, they would be provided from three centres in the two counties. We are now working with other trusts and commissioners to develop a plan to implement changes to deliver services in designated vascular centres in Preston, Blackburn and Carlisle, as announced by the Secretary of State for Health in June 2013.”