Surgery delays at Royal London Hospital 'unacceptable'

Patients needing semi-urgent surgeries were "pushed to the end of an emergency list" as doctors in a London hospital dealt with emergencies, a report said.

The Royal College of Surgeons report added that "unacceptable delays" at the Royal London in Whitechapel led to some patients suffering "severe harm".

The review comes after five of 12 orthopaedic surgeons resigned in 2011 complaining about lack of resources.

The hospital said lessons had been learnt and improvements have been made.

Some of surgeons who resigned told the BBC that a "dangerous" shortage of surgical facilities and the resulting low standard of care had left some patients with "life-changing injuries".

Following the revelations Barts and the London Trust invited a team from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) to carry out an independent investigation.

Delays 'clearly unacceptable'

The RCS report out now highlighted that patients requiring "semi-serious operations" had had their surgeries cancelled, faced delays in treatment and the hospital also often faced a shortage of staff.

It said: "Patients with less serious surgical problems consistently experienced unacceptable delays in receiving their definitive surgical treatment... one patient needing urgent surgery had to wait two and a half weeks."

"Some of these patients had subsequently required intensive care unit treatment specifically because of the delay to their surgery."

"Some patients had been either significantly disadvantaged by delays to their treatment or in some cases harmed."

Image caption Dr Steve Ryan says lessons have been learnt

Clare Marx, from the Royal College of Surgeons, said: "In at least eight cases there was evidence of severe harm to patients and in further number of cases there was lesser degrees of harm and this is clearly unacceptable.

"Delay in surgical intervention meant that the patient became sicker or had to undergo a more serious and more extensive surgical intervention as a result of those delays."

The trauma centre has since moved to a new building with better facilities, 25% more emergency theatre capacity and consultants are being freed up when they are on-call for emergencies.

Accepting the findings of the report, Dr Steve Ryan, medical director of Barts and the London Trust, said: "Whenever we have a situation where a patient's harmed we aim to be open with them to let them know that we have let them down.

"We say we are sorry and what we absolutely have to do is to learn from what's happened to make sure it never happens again."

The report has noted the better staffing for surgeries, which it said would make a significant difference to the "effective running of emergency surgical lists".

The RCS will return to the hospital in six months to see if lessons have been learnt.

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