• Heart surgery unit’s most complex cases moving to other London trusts
  • Decision taken to ensure “long term future” of heart surgery at St George’s
  • Major trauma centre remains open

A south London trust is moving complex heart surgery cases to other trusts in the capital while it tries to reform its “dysfunctional” cardiac surgical unit.

St George’s University Hospitals Foundation Trust announced today that it is “temporarily moving the surgical care of a small number of patients” outside the trust so that the heart surgery service can ‘focus on the improvement actions required’”.

The decision was also taken “in response to feedback from clinicians working in the service” in order to “ensure the long term future of cardiac surgery at the trust”.

St George’s said only the most complex cases will be moved and routine operations, both planned and emergency, will continue at the trust.

It also said the announcement will not affect its status as one of London’s four major trauma centres.

The trust has not said what the likely impact will be on the actual tempo of operations. At present, the unit is performing about 50 per month, a spokesman told the HSJ.

It is also not clear what this means for the consultant cardiac surgeons working in the unit, including Professor Marjan Jahangiri who was suspended by the trust last month but successfully overturned the decision in the High Court.

She told the court she “operates on a very high volume of complex patients” with “one of the largest clinical practices in the UK for the past five years”, operating on approximately 250 patients a year.

The trust also announced it has appointed a consultant cardiologist, Dr Raj Sharma, to act as programme clinical lead for the service.

St George’s has been trying to get to grips with the heart surgery team since April last year when it was first put in “alert” status by a national outcomes monitor for having higher than expected death rates.

This is the latest in a series of interventions by the trust’s management. Last week, it asked NHS Improvement to form an independent panel to oversee the trust’s efforts to resolve the long standing problems with its heart surgery team.

Over the past 18 months, the trust has carried out internal investigations, commissioned external reviews, brought in mediators to help resolve a toxic atmosphere, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT has been asked to provide “on the ground surgery leadership support”.

Trust chief executive Jacqueline Totterdell said: “We have taken this decision to maintain patient safety, and to protect the long term future of our cardiac surgery service.

“I would like to apologise to the very small number of patients for whom today’s decision may naturally cause some concern,” she added. “”I also want to ensure we are providing the possible best opportunities for our cardiac surgery trainees.

“However, the events of recent days and weeks have put enormous stress on the service, and the staff working in it, and it is important we take the appropriate action now to ensure the long term future of cardiac surgery at the trust.”