London Heart Surgeon's Hospital Ban Overturned

Nicky Broyd

August 30, 2018

A ban on working imposed on the experienced heart surgeon Prof Marjan Jahangiri by St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, over disciplinary proceedings has been overturned by a High Court judge.

The decision to temporarily ban Prof Jahangiri from work was made following allegations relating to her conduct with colleagues and patients rather than professional surgical competence.

The Judge said it was important to make clear no attack had been made on Prof Jahangiri's competence as a surgeon and there was no suggestion that she presented a risk to her patients. 

The Trust says it took the decision to temporarily exclude Prof Jahangiri "for no other reason than because we believed it to be in the best interests of our patients and staff."
 

'Internal Task Force'

The case began in 2017 when a National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research (NICOR) alert was issued over a mortality rate increase amongst patients having cardiac surgery at the hospital. 

Witness statements for the High Court described the working relationship between cardiac surgeons and allegations of a dysfunctional environment.

A 'Cardiac Task Group' and 'internal task force' were commissioned which resulted in a mediation process Prof Jahangiri described as "humiliating and stressful". Further details of this and the Trust's disciplinary process were entered into evidence.

The judge said he was satisfied an injunction overturning the exclusion could be issued, and that "it seems to me that it is not really a question of whether it is 'convenient' to maintain the exclusion as the Defendant [the Trust] submits. 

He continued: "an exclusion can only be justified where it is necessary. The Defendant has not satisfied me that the exclusion of the Claimant [the doctor] is necessary. Indeed, I am satisfied that the balance of convenience overwhelmingly favours the grant of an injunction."
 

Back to Work

In a statement, St George's said it had begun making the necessary arrangements for Professor Jahangiri to return to work.

It continued: "Our priority remains to resolve the systemic problems within our cardiac surgery unit.

"The cardiac surgery service at St George’s is safe, but the problems within the unit are long-standing, and must be resolved – for the benefit of staff, and the communities we serve. Both deserve better, and this is what we are committed to delivering."

Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive, St George’s, said: "We are disappointed by the judgment issued today, but understand and respect it.  

"We welcome that this ruling is not about guilt or exoneration and the judge made no finding on the facts being investigated. He has said that the exclusion process was not appropriate, but has allowed the Trust to continue its investigation into very serious issues raised.

"The ruling was about procedure and not a finding on the serious underlying issues or facts which we have a duty to investigate. We will continue the investigation to ensure that patient safety, staff wellbeing, and NHS resources are protected and accountable.

"It is vital that we ensure that our staff feel able to speak freely to the independent experts we have commissioned to support our work to improve the care we provide and the way our colleagues work in our cardiac surgery service.

"The decisions we take as a Trust and have equally applied in this case are about ensuring we are accountable and have the highest standards of patient care and safety, are for staff wellbeing and to ensure that NHS resources are used effectively and efficiently."

The Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Northern Ireland (SCTS) said earlier this month: "We are aware of the concerns regarding the cardiac surgical service at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and that an independent review has now been carried out. The review has brought to light serious issues at the hospital. It is clear that St George’s first obligation is to ensure that it is providing a safe standard of care for all patients attending the cardiac surgical unit."
 

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