Infection fear for patients 'rushed' into operations

PUBLISHED: 17:38 10 December 2008 | UPDATED: 11:02 12 August 2010

PATIENTS are being sent for major operations without the very latest infection controls in a rush to meet government targets it is claimed

PATIENTS are being sent for major operations without the very latest infection controls in a "rush" to meet government targets it is claimed

A surgeon claims Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust (BHT) has been forced to send more than 700 patients for operations at private BMI hospitals in order to meet its 18-week target for operation waiting lists.

However, he says, the absence of an ultra clean air system, called Laminar Flow, at the BMI Sloane Hospital, in Shortlands, has caused surgeons to refuse to operate there.

Infection during a deep joint operation such as a hip replacement can leave a patient crippled or even be fatal.

The consultant told the Times that surgeons have refused to perform major joint operations at the Sloane as it was "not taking into account the true clinical needs of the patients".

Instead, they have opted to carry out surgery at BMI Fawkham Manor BMI in Dartford, but BMI admitted some patients are still receiving major joint surgery at the Sloane.

Furthermore, it is claimed that patients have been referred for surgery by rushed hospital clerks and some have had to be operated on by unfamiliar surgeons.

The surgeon, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: "I think they did it in a rush because all they were interested in was making the numbers.

"When you are implanting prosthetic joints, you need an ultra clean environment. It is generally accepted that you take every necessary measure to minimise the risk of infection.

"The whole 18-week policy is wrong. It means that people cannot be prioritised - everyone has to be taken in chronologically.

"There is a general concern that clinical judgement has gone out of the window."

The Healthcare Commission (HC) first ordered the hospital to install the sterile system by 2007 in its 2005-2006 report.

The following year the Sloane failed three standards in infection control and health and safety. Laminar Flow is still not due to be fully installed until 2010.

Sue Sulis, Secretary of Bromley Community Care Protection Group, said: "If the hospital is going to send people to alternative providers, they should be checking they get the best service."

However, a BMI spokesperson insisted that incidents of infection at the hospital were very low, with no incidents in the last 12 months.

A spokesperson for Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust said that the HC's report on the Sloane had not been checked before entering the contract.

She added: "We understand that some surgeons are carrying out work in the Sloane but it is not seen as a problem because of the low infection rates there."

Patients were offered operations at BMI hospitals after BHT management realised, in October, that 700 patients needed operations before 2009 to meet an 18-week referral target.

The shock discovery delayed the proposed closure of wards at Orpington Treatment centre and led to a massive phone-around of patients in order to meet the target and avoid hefty fines.

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