Police investigate deaths of patients under care of surgeon - update

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POLICE have confirmed an investigation into the deaths of a number of patients who were under the care of a consultant surgeon, has been launched.

Sudip Sarker worked for the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, working at the Alexandra Hospital and at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Speaking last week North Worcestershire Superintendent Kevin Purcell said the investigation began after police received a letter in December last year.

He said: “We were made aware that there were a number of concerns in relation to the deaths of patients in 2012 who had been under Mr Sarker’s care.

"We are in the early stages of obtaining the relevant information from hospitals and other health organisations in order to conduct our investigation.

“We cannot be specific about numbers at this time but can confirm that the deaths of three patients, whose joint inquest was adjourned in December, form part of this inquiry. The families of those people have been informed and updated on the situation.

“This is a complex matter which will undoubtedly take a considerable amount of time to investigate thoroughly.

“We are very mindful of the importance of patient confidentiality and the impact on the wider community.

"We will continue to liaise with the key partner agencies involved and people can rest assured that we will be conducting our inquiries in a sensitive and appropriate manner as befitting an investigation of this nature.”

Jennifer Emerson, a medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “We are aware that a police investigation is ongoing which we are assisting with where possible. We are not aware that any charges have been made.

“We are running in the region of 20 civil claims against Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust on behalf of patients or families affected by surgery carried out by Sudip Sarker. Four of these cases have had admissions of negligence from the Trust and our investigations continue into the remaining.

“This group action also includes the three deaths that have been investigated and adjourned by the Worcestershire Coroner.”

A statement from Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said it is co-operating fully with the police on their investigation. 

"The Trust would like to reassure patients and their relatives that as soon as it became aware there was a potential problem the Trust acted swiftly and responsibly to protect its patients.  It alerted the Royal College of Surgeons in July 2012 and asked them to review his clinical practice. 

"While the review was on-going the Trust put restrictions on the surgeon’s practice.  He was excluded from the Trust in October 2012.

"An expert multidisciplinary team has reviewed the medical records of all his patients who had undergone a major operation (eg for bowel cancer).  Patients we were concerned about were recalled for further assessment and appropriate investigations. 

"A separate review of all patients who had any contact with Mr Sarker (outpatient appointments or minor procedures) is being performed by a team of specialist external surgeons.  Patients in this group who require further assessment/ investigation are also being invited back to the hospital."

The Trust has set up an enquiry line for any patient who is concerned about the treatment they have received. 

Anyone who is concerned can call 01527 503812 or email surgeryreview@worcsacute.nhs.uk.

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