Royal Cornwall Hospital cardiologist investigated

Royal Cornwall Hospital The hospital trust said routine screening had raised "potential" concerns about an unnamed cardiologist's clinical practice

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A heart specialist in Cornwall has been told to stay at home while concerns about his work are investigated.

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) has not named the consultant cardiologist involved.

Andy Virr, director for medicine, said "potential" concerns had been identified through routine screening.

He added that so far the hospital had identified four patients where there was a "potential for harm" and they were being investigated further.

The consultant cardiologist is one of eight at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

The trust said patients did not need to contact the hospital directly as it would write to them individually and contact their GPs if any concerns were identified.

Sir Roger Boyle Sir Roger Boyle criticised the trust at a board meeting last week

In a statement, Mr Virr said the trust was "committed to continually improving clinical practice and following the principles of transparency and openness" as set out in the Francis Report 2013.

"We will always act to put patients first and be honest when we do not meet the high standards we expect of ourselves," he added.

Robert Francis QC was the chairman of the inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital which looked into a higher-than-expected number of deaths at the hospital between 2005 and 2008.

In a separate statement released to the BBC, Mr Virr said the trust was also taking action to improve its cardiac services.

'Pending list'

The Cornish trust was recently criticised by Sir Roger Boyle, the former government heart "tsar" who quit as one of its non-executive members in June.

Analysis

The issues afflicting the cardiology department are just the latest in a catalogue of challenges the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has had to contend with in recent months.

It is not easy for a hospital to admit harm may have come to its patients, either because of their treatment or because they waited too long to be treated.

However, the trust is taking a positive view.

The hospital was criticised for failing to take action over the now disgraced gynaecologist Rob Jones, despite a litany of complaints about his work.

Andy Virr, the divisional director for medicine, said the culture has now changed and it is a sign of "good governance" that staff are prepared to speak up when they are worried about the work of a colleague.

He added that when there is the potential for harm, patients should be reassured it will come to light.

Sir Roger said the hospital's cardiology department had "hundreds" of non-emergency patients on its waiting list.

"There are a lot of patients who have been referred to cardiology specialists who are on a so-called pending list awaiting a decision as to whether they need further investigation or treatment," Sir Roger said.

Mr Virr admitted the trust currently had 275 patients waiting for cardiology outpatient follow-up appointments and a further 82 patients waiting for a planned cardiac investigation, such as angiograms.

He said the backlog was due to "high demand and limited capacity" but that action was being taken and patients would be seen "on both their need and length of wait".

"We have already put on additional clinics, recruited locum doctors and will shortly go to advert for two permanent consultant cardiologists," Mr Virr said.

He said all patients would be seen by the end of November, again adding that it would not be necessary for patients to contact the trust as it would write to them individually.

"We will always act to put patients first and be honest when we do not meet the high standards we expect of ourselves," the statement concluded.

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