Beds, Herts & Bucks

Stevenage Lister Surgicentre: Third patient dies

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Media captionLister Surgicentre has failed repeated inspections by the Care Quality Commission

A third patient has died after routine surgery at a privately-run NHS hospital in Hertfordshire, a BBC investigation has discovered.

The Surgicentre in Stevenage is already facing criticism over the unexpected deaths of two other NHS patients, following low-risk joint operations.

And after a catalogue of other errors, all new referrals for joint or eye surgery have been suspended by NHS Hertfordshire.

The Surgicentre, on the site of Lister Hospital, only opened last year.

It was built, and managed, by a private company Clinicenta, part of the construction giant Carillion. The nurses and surgeons are seconded from the NHS and it treats NHS patients.

It has been criticised in several Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections.

BBC Inside Out East has discovered that NHS Hertfordshire has also ordered an independent review into three unexpected deaths.

Lesley Watts, chief executive of the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said she was still "concerned" about the centre.

In a statement issued to BBC Inside Out, Ms Watts said: "East and North Hertfordshire CCG does not think that sufficient progress has been made and remains concerned about performance."

'Evidently sub-standard'

The chief executive of the Strategic Health Authority, Sir Neil McKay, also criticised Surgicentre, which provides routine surgery and treatment to NHS patients in areas such as ear, nose and throat, trauma, orthopaedics, gynaecology and ophthalmology.

Sir Neil called the services "evidently sub-standard" and has called for an urgent meeting with his counterpart at the CQC.

The CQC, which has the power to revoke the hospital's licence, is carrying out more inspections.

A BBC Inside Out investigation reveals the extent of Surgicentre's failings.

New referrals for eye and joint treatment have been suspended by NHS Hertfordshire, which has ordered an independent review of the deaths.

Inspections by the CQC have repeatedly found failures in key standards, and Surgicentre has been investigated over the loss of patient files.

Image caption Anita Mansi died three days after a knee replacement operation

According to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), thousands of eye patients failed to get appointments, leading to at least six people suffering irreversible eyesight loss.

The board of the CCG has agreed it will not take over management of the private contract when it assumes control of NHS commissioning in the spring.

Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland (Conservative) has repeated his calls for the "failing" Surgicentre to be returned to NHS control.

This has been echoed by Michael Mansi, whose sister Anita died three days after a knee replacement operation at the Surgicentre.

He is angry that he was not told about an investigation into her death.

"They said she had a heart attack," Mr Mansi said. "I think this is most strange because she had an ECG before the operation to make sure her heart was OK.

"There are so many things unexplained. I am very suspicious."

'Clinical needs'

Clinicenta director Mike Hobbs said: "We would like to reassure patients that concerns have not been raised regarding the competence of our clinical teams.

"I can state categorically that patient care has been exclusively determined by the clinical needs of patients."

He said three-quarters of eye clinic patients now rated their experience 'very good' or 'excellent', and Surgicentre had one of the best length of stay records for knee and hip replacements in the east of England.

Mr Hobbs said while joint replacement surgery was routine, all surgery carried risks.

Clinicenta said there had been a dramatic reduction in complaints, down from 130 per month to 20.

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