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The appalling case of an electrical supervisor who violated women’s and children’s bodies in a hospital mortuary was so shocking that it is hard to imagine any NHS board would not have reacted by looking into their own mortuary security and tightening procedures. 

Yet HSJ has found a string of serious security breaches at mortuaries, which happened since David Fuller was convicted in late 2021 for offences at what is now Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust. And many recent inspection reports from the Human Tissue Authority show procedures are still slack, with keys not signed out, doors, which could be unlocked to allow access to body stores, and CCTV wiped before it could be used in audits. Trusts involved say they have increased security.   

In most cases, the issues seem to be theoretical — no harm was caused and those who accessed mortuaries had no evil intent. However, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. Another man has admitted sexual offences in a hospital mortuary and awaits sentence.  

There were some hard lessons for trusts in the report on the Fuller case, but have they yet been taken on board?

Less than total recall

The chair of the major inquiry into rogue surgeon Ian Paterson has raised concerns over Salford Royal Hospital’s recall process for patients treated by spinal surgeon John Williamson.

Graham James, the former Bishop of Norwich who led the Paterson Inquiry, suggested NHS England should investigate the handling of Mr Williamson’s 23-year career at Salford.

An initial review of Mr Williamson’s last five years revealed significant surgical issues and avoidable harm. Despite this, the trust decided against contacting all patients from the previous 18 years, claiming it was impractical and unlikely to uncover new information.

Bishop James cautions against relying solely on publicity to prompt patients to come forward, calling for an independent review of the trust’s decision.

Salford Royal has instead invited concerned patients to request a desktop review, with 31 responses so far. Glyn Smurthwaite, a retired anaesthetist involved in the review, advocates for a more comprehensive recall, noting the severity of Mr Williamson’s past conduct. The Northern Care Alliance and NHSE declined to comment.

Also on

In Carbon Copy, Zoe Tidman looks at the challenges posed by trusts’ new green plans for the next three years, and in Comment, Toby Brown says that trying to remove politics from the NHS is akin to trying to block out the sun. Can we please start to harness its power for good, he asks.