First merger since CCGs became statutory bodies in April last year, plus the rest of today’s comment and news

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4.51pm A police investigation has been launched into the deaths of a number of patients who were under the care of a consultant at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust.

Sudip Sarker was a consultant colorectal surgeoin at Alexandra Hospital in Redditch but was suspended in 2012.

West Mercia Police said it began the investigation after receiving a letter in December and that the deaths of three patients, whose joint inquest was adjourned last year, formed part of the inquiry.

The trust has released a statement which we publish in full below:

“Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust is co-operating fully with the police on their investigation into one of its colorectal surgeons, Mr Sudip Sarker. 

“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. The number is 01527 503812 and it is operational during normal working hours. There is also a dedicated e-mail address

4.14pm Plans to close a small GP practice in one of the most deprived parts of Newcastle have been met with criticism from local politicians and health leaders.

Staff at Scotswood GP Practice were informed on 12 February, with no prior notice, that it would close at the end of March after negotiations with the private firm that runs it to renew its contract collapsed. NHS England’s Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear area team has initiated an emergency disposal of its patient list.

On Wednesday, Newcastle City Council’s leader Nick Forbes and Newcastle Healthwatch’s chair Bev Bookless sent a joint letter to the area team expressing their “strong and shared dismay” at the abrupt decision.

4.10pm The Royal College of General Practitioners is to remain opposed to any change in the law on assisted dying, following a consultation of its members which found little appetite for a change in the RCGP’s stance.

More than 1,700 members responded to the consultation, which was open from 22 May 2013 until 9 October 2013, with 77 per cent of those responding expressing the opinion that the college should remain opposed to a change in the law to permit assisted dying.

Common reasons cited for not backing a change included the belief that it would be “detrimental to the doctor-patient relationship”, and that it would “put the most vulnerable groups in society at risk”.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said: “This was one of the most comprehensive consultations the college has ever undertaken and the quality of the responses on this extremely important issue has been very high. GPs will continue, as they have always done, to provide excellent care to patients in the final days and hours of their lives.”

3.50pm Latest on Mid Staffordshire - Mr Justice Haddon-Cave has reserved the sentencing of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

The judge said he would come back to Stafford at a later date to give his sentence.

3.41pm A quick update from the Mid Staffordshire sentencing - the submissions for both the prosecution and the defence are now complete.

3.39pm NHS England has published last week’s accident and emergency statistics, showing that it missed the national target of 95 per cent of patients being seen in under four hours.

The percentage of patients spending under four hours in A&E last week was 94.3 per cent, which is the same as the previous week and slightly higher than the same period last year.

The number of longer waits for admission is at a high level, with around 5,400 over 4 hours and 19 twelve hour waits across five trusts.

Dr Sarah Pinto-Duschinsky, director of operations and delivery for NHS England said it was “disappointing” that some patients were waiting longer than they should have to, but that overall the NHS was delivering a good service.

3.21pm A surgeon who landed an NHS job on a relative’s recommendation has been struck off for his ‘shocking failings’ after he made basic errors in seven operations over a three month period.

Mr Faisal Sultan Siddiqui, 57, was “out of his depth” when he was handed a locum post as consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Kingston Hospital, in south west London.

The hospital did not bother to interview him or even check his CV after a “family member working at the trust” put in a good word, a tribunal heard.

Mr Siddiqui has now been struck off by a fitness to practise panel in Manchester, chaired by Sheila Hollingworth, who said his actions ‘raised serious concerns for patient safety’.

You can find more information on the decision here.

2.58pm HSJ is hosting a Twitter chat on 28 February, in association with Marie Curie Cancer Care, to discuss how best to tackle the issues of access and inequality when commissioning end of life care.

Recently Phil McCarvill, head of policy and public affairs at Marie Curie Cancer Care, wrote about the World Health Organization finding that only one in 10 dying people have access to palliative care.

He explained that while the UK is a world leader in palliative care, there is still significant unmet need here, especially among black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

If you’re interested in joining the conversation, you can find out more about the chat here.

2.45pm On 14 February HSJ ran a Twitter chat in association with Marie Curie Cancer Care to discuss the importance of partnership working in end of life care, featuring Dr Peter Nightingale, the joint Royal College of GPs and Marie Curie clinical lead for end of life care.

You can check out the highlights of the chat here.

1.37pm This week’s issue of HSJ magazine is now available to read on our tablet app.

1.34pm In response to our story about health and wellbeing boards refusing acute providers places on their boards, Sarah-Jane Marsh, the chief executive of Birmingham Children’s Hospital, has tweeted the following:

“We are refused in Brum. Madness given the issues facing children+young people in our city+the value we could add.”

If you’re aware of other health and wellbeing boards who are restricting their memberships, why not tweet your examples to our reporter, @JudithWelikala

1.16pm The family of a man who was accidentally killed by a German doctor on his first UK shift as an out-of-hours GP has accused British and German authorities of a cover-up, The Guardian reports.

There were several failed attempts to extradite the doctor six years ago so that he would face criminal proceedings in the UK rather than Germany and Mr Gray’s family have criticised the authorities for refusing to share the minutes of meetings after a row over Germany’s handling of the case.

GP Mr Ubani was given a nine month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine after being convicted of killing Mr Gray by giving him a massive overdose of the painkiller diamorphine.

12.23pm Two health and wellbeing boards in Sheffield and Leeds have refused requests from major acute providers for their representatives to be made members.

12.14pm Six clinical commissioning groups in South West London have formally dismantled their Better Services Better Value programme designed to reconfigure acute services. However, they admit service change is still required.

12.01pm An HSJ exclusive from Dave West: three clinical commissioning groups have decided to merge, in the first such move since CCGs became statutory bodies in April last year.

11.54am The high profile drive to increase the safety of patients while in NHS care has led to a boost in staff recruitment, but how can boards know if they’ve got it right? This was the question asked at the latest HSJ roundtable, which was held in association with Allocate Software.

You can read what the panellists discussed here.

11.42am The current lead story on is that the head of NHS Employers has called for a debate about how to ensure a “smooth exit” from the era of health service pay restraint and possibly introduce a “living wage”.

Dean Royles makes the comments in an article for HSJ ahead of the NHS Pay Review Body making recommendations to the government on pay, which are expected to be published later this month.

11.30am More from The Telegraph (newspaper only), doctors at the London Chest Hospital have started treating heart attack patients with their own stem cells.

The patients are among 3,000 across Europe taking part in the largest trial of its kind.

11.26am The Telegraph also reports on calls by scientists to genetically screen men for prostate cancer, just as women are screened for breast cancer.

Researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research, London have found 13 mutations in genes that predict the development of the disease.

Professor Ros Eeles, who led the study, said: “Our study shows the potential benefit of putting prostate cancer on a par with cancers such as breast cancer when it comes to genetic testing.

“We proved that testing for known cancer mutations can pick out men who are destined to have a more aggressive form of prostate cancer.

10.51am The Daily Telegraph reportson the £522,379 pay-out given to a woman from the London Ambulance Service after it admitted arriving later than it should have done to treat her dislocated knee. 

Ceri Leigh, 50, was left with post traumatic traumatic stress disorder, following an incident on a bus in which her knee cap dislocated and she was trapped between seats. The ambulance took 50 minutes to arrive.

10.29am Here’s our story on the sentencing of Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, which will take place later today.

The trust faces an unlimited fine after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the safety of Gillian Astbury.

The criminal prosecution was brought by the Health and Safety Executive three years after an inquest jury ruled Mrs Astbury’s death was contributed to by low staffing levels and other systemic failures.

10.17am Turning to this morning’s papers,The Times’ health correspondent writes that the NHS is under pressure to investigate a “Welsh Mid Staffs” scandal amid concerns that the health service has failed to tackle poor care”.

Chris Smyth reports that relatives of patients who died in “harrowing” circumstances say there is a “sinister pattern” of neglect, which health bosses have failed to take seriously.

Senior medical figures in England have suggested there is a “sense of complacency” in the Welsh NHS.

10.11am Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust will be sentenced later today after pleading guilty to safety breaches over the death of a diabetic patient.

Gillian Astbury died in 2007 after staff failed to give her insulin.

Here on HSJ Live we’ll keep you updated on the sentencing throughout the day.

9.50am Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group has voted to go ahead with plans to downgrade consultant led maternity cover at the Friarage Hospital, rejecting an alternative proposal by a council leader to save it.

Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie said he was “incredibly and bitterly disappointed and very angry” with the decision, which is supported by South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust, the body that runs the hospital.

9.45am Around 100 GP practices could be forced to close due to cuts in national funding, leaving patients in rural areas without a GP, the British Medical Association has warned.

The government has decided to phase out a funding arrangement called the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) over a seven-year period, beginning in April.

MPIG means many smaller GP practices are guaranteed a minimum level of funding that is not dependent on the number of patients on their practice list.

6.00am Jeremy Hunt and Andy Burnham both have clear ideas about what they want for health policy but, both are being constrained by their party leaders, according to Incisive Health’s Mike Birtwistle.