• Sir Andrew Cash’s panel of experts will be a “critical friend” to St George’s FT
  • Panel formed at request of trust to oversee efforts to improve heart surgery unit
  • Comes after external review told board to seek “”radical solutions” to break up surgical team

NHS Improvement has announced the panel of experts to oversee a London teaching trust’s ongoing efforts to sort out its “dysfunctional” cardiac surgical service.

Sir Andrew Cash will chair a panel of five others that will scrutinise St George’s University Hospital Foundation Trust’s efforts to improve its heart surgery team.

The panel has been charged with ensuring “necessary improvements are made swiftly and will be subject to independent advice and scrutiny,” NHS Improvement said in a statement.

This is Sir Andrew’s first role since retiring from 16 years running Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust in July. His panel “may call upon other experts to advise it, with the agreement of NHS Improvement”.

Panelists include Dr Richard Grocott-Mason, medical director at the Royal Brompton and Harefield FT, Ann Stringer, executive director of human resources at Northumbria Healthcare FT, and Janice Barber, a healthcare law expert.

“Our main proirity as a panel is to be a critical friend to the trust by providing advice and scrutiny to the chief executive and trust board as they work through their planned actions,” Sir Andrew said in a statement.

Jacqueline Totterdell, St George’s chief executive, said the trust “needs independent oversight” so it can “address serious issues in our cardiac surgical service”.

The team was formed at the behest of St George’s, which is trying to turn around its troubled heart surgery service. An external review in June reported significant issues within the surgical consultant team and advised the board seek unspecified “radical solutions to breaking up the current surgical team”.

HSJ first revealed the contents of the report, known as the Bewick Review, after its principal author Dr Mike Bewick, former deputy medical director of NHS England.

The trust has already taken major steps in changing the heart surgery service. On 11 September, it announced it was moving its complex surgery cases to other trusts in London so it can “focus on the improvement actions required”.

On 12 September, HSJ reported St George’s has had its four cardiac surgery trainees removed by Health Education England after the trust raised concerns about the impact the “current challenges within the service” would have on the trainees.