Published: 15/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5986 Page 8

An investigation into cardiac services for adults at the troubled John Radcliffe Hospital cardiac surgery unit has been ordered by the Healthcare Commission.

The decision was taken after complaints from members of the public about the standard of services and is the latest in a catalogue of reviews into the unit dating back to 2001.

The commission said the investigation was also a consequence of concerns raised by previous reviews into the unit along with questions about the quality of care coming from data on the central cardiac audit database (CCAD).

Mortality rates for surgeons contained on the database were published voluntarily by the trust on the same day as the investigation was announced last week.

An independent review set up by the Department of Health in February into the use of hospital episode statistics and the CCAD showed an above-average mortality rate at the hospital for adult cardiac surgery.

However Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals trust said the review team concluded HES data was not an accurate way of assessing outcomes. The statement added that CCAD figures, which are adjusted for risk, show that 'in most cases' the mortality rates were lower than predicted.

Healthcare Commission head of investigations Nigel Ellis said analysis of the data and public views 'has raised our level of concern'.

An inquiry in 2001 described the unit as 'on its knees and riven by internal conflict' with a culture characterised by arrogance, complacency and secrecy.