Some operations at Hinchingbrooke transferred during inquiry

Some complex surgical operations have been transferred from Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon to Addenbrooke's in Cambridge during an investigation.

Coroner David Morris raised concerns after Patricia Spooner and Jayne Smith died following surgery at the hospital.

He said: "This series of deaths referred to me have caused me serious concern."

NHS Cambridgeshire said some complex colorectal surgery had been transferred as a temporary measure.

Other surgeries will continue at Hinchingbrooke, including emergency treatment.

Mr Morris, coroner for South and West Cambridgeshire, also said that ''a completely independent investigation is now in the interests of patients and the public".

He criticised doctors for failing to take one of the women who died back into theatre until the fifth day of her hospital stay.

Temporary transfer

A post-mortem examination found that staples used during the operation were found deep in her muscle, and that this caused infection.

Geoff Heathcock, shadow cabinet member for health on Cambridgeshire County Council, said he had asked the local Primary Care Trust if the problems at Hinchingbrooke had anything to do with uncertainty about a delay in the government signing off a franchise agreement for the hospital's future management.

He also wanted to know if this was a reason why staff were leaving and why the hospital was having difficulties in recruiting replacements.

Dr Sushil Jathanna, chief executive of NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough, apologised over the deaths.

He said: "The transfer of services to Addenbrooke's is temporary, while the investigation is under way, and we are working with GPs and the hospital to recruit more high quality staff.

"Our focus is on patient safety and the quality of care at Hinchingbrooke and we do not compromise on this. We will wait until the investigation is concluded before taking further action and then we will look at the recommendations."

Dr Richard Dickinson, medical director for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust, apologised for the deaths and offered his condolences to the families of Mrs Spooner and Mrs Smith.

He said the hospital had begun an independent external review into colorectal services and would follow its recommendations.

"To clarify, the hospital will transfer some complex colorectal surgery to Addenbrooke's. However, all other surgeries will continue at Hinchingbrooke, including emergency surgery," he added.

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