‘A surgeon left a medical specimen bag inside me after hernia op’

  • By Joe Pike and Charlotte Rowles
  • BBC Newsnight

Legend, Tom Hadrys spoke to Newsnight about the lasting impact on his health following his hernia operation in 2016

A man discovered a bag of medical samples had been left in his stomach after his hernia operation, the BBC has discovered.

The surgeon who carried out the procedure, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton in 2016, also left behind part of Tom Hadrys’ intestine which had been cut out during the operation.

According to a hospital incident report seen by BBC Newsnight, the surgeon realized his mistakes as he was returning home from work.

Sussex Police are investigating at least 105 cases of alleged medical negligence by two surgical teams at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust said the work of its surgical teams “is closely and continuously monitored” and “whenever our care does not meet our high standards, we take immediate action”.

Coming back to a recovery room bed as the effects of his general anesthesia wore off, retired engineer Tom Hadrys, 63, remembers being approached by a doctor.

“I was conscious,” says Mr. Hadrys, “and I heard what must have been the surgeon whispering in my ear. He said, ‘I’m terribly sorry,’ and I think that ‘He said, ‘We made a mistake and I ‘I have to take you back to surgery.’

Mr Hadrys later learned the surgeon had mulled over the operation in his mind as he drove home and realized what he had done.

“He turned his car around and went back to the hospital,” Mr Hadrys said.

The same surgeon then performed a second surgery to remove both the sample bag and the section of intestine mistakenly left behind during the initial operation.

Classified by hospital directors as an “event that should never have happened,” the incident prompted a serious incident investigation.

The hospital trust admitted that surgical errors inflicted on Mr Hadrys meant his recovery was prolonged. In 2020 he apologized and awarded her £15,000 compensation.

But the surgeon – who the BBC is not naming for legal reasons – continued to operate and still works within the trust. He was then appointed to a round of consultants against the advice of some colleagues who did not consider him sufficiently qualified.

Other “concerns about the competence” of the surgeon were highlighted in emails exchanged between senior staff. And in 2019, the General Medical Council (GMC), which regulates doctors in the UK, contacted the hospital trust in response to a complaint it had received about the same surgeon.

The trust says the GMC investigation was not related to patient safety and that it concluded there was “no case to answer and no action required”.

In 2022, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent healthcare regulator – contacted the hospital trust to raise concerns about operations carried out by the same surgeon. “The details provided by the trust reassured us that no further action was required from the CQC on this occasion,” the CQC told the BBC.

The hospital’s junior doctors had also raised a number of general concerns about patient safety – particularly regarding this surgeon – to the chief executive and chief medical officer.

Trainees’ wider concerns – including over an “apparent increase in mortality rates over several years” – were cited in an independent report by Health Education England.

Professor Katie Urch, Chief Medical Officer at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our surgical staff are committed to providing the best and safest care to our patients, often in difficult situations.

“Surgeons do not work individually, they work in teams. These teams are highly skilled and perform complex surgical procedures that are never without risk.

“Their results are continually and closely monitored – both internally and externally – and whenever our care does not meet our high standards, we take immediate action to learn and improve.

The BBC has been investigating patient safety issues at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust for ten months.

In 2023, four whistleblowers told the BBC that patients had died unnecessarily while others had been “effectively mutilated”. Whistleblowers also complain of a “mafia” management culture.

The trust previously said its main priority was to provide “safe and effective care”, that the data did not reflect claims of unnecessary deaths and that there was no evidence of a top-down toxic culture.

Around eight years after his own hernia operation, Mr Hadrys told Newsnight of the lasting negative impact on his health.

“There is no doubt that I am suffering,” he said. “It’s affected me. I have a weak abdomen now, I can’t really lift anything heavy.”

News Source :
Gn Health

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