Spire Leeds Hospital to pay almost £15,000 in costs after surgeon suspended amid 'questionable surgery' concerns
Spire Leeds Hospital has been ordered to pay £15,000 in costs after a surgeon was suspended when colleagues raised concerns about his 'questionable' surgeries.
Upper limb orthopaedic consultant Mike Walsh worked at the hospital in Jackson Avenue, Roundhay, from 1993 until he was suspended in 2018,
A judge heard how concerns were raised about his work by a fellow doctor, physiotherapists and the local clinical commissioning group.
District Judge Susan Bouch heard how concerns were raised about Mr Walsh’s outdated methods and questionable surgery in 2017 by a number of sources, including a fellow upper limb specialist and physiotherapists he worked with.
Spire Healthcare said last year that it had reviewed the treatment of Mr Walsh’s patients and “fewer than 50” had been invited back for a follow-up appointment.
At the hearing on Thursday, the firm admitted failing to notify four patients about concerns over Mr Walsh’s work “as soon as was reasonably practicable” and was fined £5,000.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which brought the case, said it was the first prosecution of its kind against an independent healthcare provider.
Ryan Donaghue, prosecuting, said a review of Mr Walsh’s work found a pattern of poor practice, including using outdated techniques and performing some procedures which should have been referred to other specialists.
He explained how one patient was seen 111 times by Mr Walsh over a number of years and underwent 14 operations on her shoulder, elbow and carpal tunnel but was still in pain when her case was finally reviewed by another doctor.
Mr Walsh was suspended by Spire in 2018 and later retired, the court heard.
Spire pleaded guilty to four counts of “non-compliance with the duty of candour” as Judge Bouch heard how four patients had to wait too long before they were properly informed of the “potential harm” caused by Mr Walsh.
But the judge said: “I am satisfied that this is not a case where the duty of candour has been completely overlooked or that the company have made any attempt to conceal or cover-up their failures.
“Instead, I find this to be a case where the company’s procedures were either insufficient at the time or not adhered to.”
Judge Boucher added: “There is no evidence of further harm to the patients involved that was caused by these failures and the company, I’m satisfied, acted swiftly to address the patients’ future care.”
The district judge said she also took into account the “commitment shown to the community” by the company during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier, Paul Greaney QC, defending, said the firm, which runs 39 hospitals across the UK, had taken over entire cancer services from the NHS in some localities, meaning more than 260,000 patients were treated who otherwise would have had their procedures cancelled.
Mr Greaney said: “There is, in short, no doubt that many lives would’ve been saved due to the efforts of Spire.”
Spire was ordered to pay costs of £14,984.36 and a victim surcharge of £120.
After the hearing, Sarah Dronsfield, CQC’s head of hospital inspection, said: “The patients under the charge of Mr Walsh neither received a prompt apology nor full explanation for the poor care they received. Spire Hospital Leeds was not transparent or open with regards to what happened.
“People using any type of health or social care service have a right to be informed about all elements of their care and treatment, and all providers have a responsibility to be open and honest with those in their care. Spire Healthcare Limited failed to meet that responsibility, which is why the CQC took this action.”
Alison Dickinson, group clinical director at Spire Healthcare, said: “We regret that we missed opportunities to act promptly to inform four patients of failings in the care provided by their consultant, Mike Walsh, who held practising privileges at Spire Leeds until his suspension in April 2018.
“We investigated those incidents, apologised to the four patients, and offered each of them the opportunity to discuss their concerns, but we fully accept that we did not do this as promptly as we should have done.”
She said: “We apologise again today to those four patients for the delay in notifying them and for the care they received in 2017/18.”