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January 27th 2020

Medical Negligence

Recall of 217 Spire Healthcare patients raises concerns over accountability of surgeons and validity of operations

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

Managing Director, London and South

Recall of 217 Spire Healthcare patients raises concerns over accountability of surgeons and validity of operations

The latest case of private patients of Spire Healthcare being recalled in their hundreds due to concerns they may have undergone unnecessary operations raises huge questions over its continuing management of senior surgeons and the procedures they perform.

The latest case of private patients of Spire Healthcare being recalled in their hundreds due to concerns they may have undergone unnecessary operations raises huge questions over its continuing management of senior surgeons and the procedures they perform.

The recall of 217 patients of consultant orthopaedic surgeon Habib Rahman comes just three years after disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson – who worked at the same Spire Parkway hospital in Solihull – was jailed for 20 years.

It is thought Paterson’s offending could have affected around 900 patients and, given it was such a serious and damaging case, all would have thought policies and procedures would have been tightened to ensure there was never a repeat.

However, here we are in the same situation again.

Spire says the 217 patients ‘were identified as requiring a follow-up to offer them a consultation with an independent surgeon’. However, can we be confident that the possible number of patients affected is not many more?

A 52-year-old woman, who’d undergone two unsuccessful shoulder operations with Mr Rahman, has described how she attended hospital last year and was told by a different orthopaedic surgeon and a nurse adviser that both procedures she’d had in 2017 had not been needed.

“Not only was I told my surgeries were unnecessary, but that the type of surgery I’d received from Mr Rahman wasn’t his specialist field,” she said.

It is certainly an entirely unacceptable situation.

Undergoing an unnecessary operation can have a long-term negative impact, disrupting life at home and at work, causing avoidable pain, and of course sometimes leaving patients needing further surgery in the future.

Spire Healthcare says it first restricted Mr Rahman’s practice in September 2018, before suspending his full privileges in January last year. Five months later, they were completely withdrawn.

However, he continues to work for the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust under “interim conditions”. No NHS patients have been recalled.

Spire itself invited the Royal College of Surgeons to review his work and liaise with the NHS, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and General Medical Council (GMC) and it was as a result of that investigation that it wrote to patients offering follow-up consultations.

Certainly, this situation will cause anybody who has had surgery at Spire Parkway and with Habib Rahman to question the validity of that procedure, especially if they feel their problem has not been resolved.

On a wider scale it is likely to cause extra work for some other already hard pressed surgeons who will face more anxious questioning on forthcoming procedures from their patients.

It is important that a root cause analysis identifies the underlying issues that have given rise to the current situation as quickly as possible to allay wider fears.

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