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Heart surgeon in Leeds struck off for ‘serious shortcomings’

A children’s heart surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary has been struck off following “serious” and “long-standing shortcomings” in patient safety.

After a review of paediatric car services and standards at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the surgeon Nihal Weerasena was referred to the General Medical Council.

A tribunal then ruled that he was at fault for medical negligence failures involving six patients.

The Trust had previously postponed children’s heart operations for a fortnight following safety concerns, and the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) ruled that Mr Weerasena’s treatment of four out of the six patients – one adult and three children – was seriously below the standard reasonably expected of a competent surgeon.

The treatment administered by Mr Weerasena included carrying out what the tribunal described as a “complex” surgical procedure on a seven-year-old which posed a “significant risk”.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust should be commended for the way it has handled these incidents of clinical negligence. Unfortunately we see health complications and injuries occurring following hospital visits all too often – which tend to be as a direct result of health care providers not learning and taking action after past mistakes. This can both be due to individual error or a clerical and organisational error on behalf of the hospital.

When patient health and well-being is concerned, it is the NHS Trust’s responsibility to fully investigate any incidents, to ensure the patient and their family are aware of any errors that have been made and then to implement changes to make sure such errors are not made again.

This comes under what is known as ‘duty of candour’, which is a legal duty on hospitals and medical professionals to inform and apologise to patients if there has been mistakes that have led to injury. Duty of candour aims to help patients get accurate and truthful information from providers at all times.