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Heart surgeon quits hospital in children's deaths probe

The surgeon who operated on four children who died after undergoing heart surgery at a leading hospital is leaving his post, it was confirmed today.

Children's heart surgery has been suspended at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford while an investigation into the deaths, which occurred in the last three months, is carried out.

A spokesman for the hospital confirmed Caner Salih performed the operations on the "very sick" children who died, but stressed the investigation does not focus solely on the surgery.

He also added the surgeon's departure, for a job at another hospital, is not related to the launch of the investigation this week.

The spokesman said: "We can confirm that all four of the children who died within the timeframe concerned were patients of Mr Salih, but we are not just looking at the surgical procedures, we are looking at all aspects of patient care in relation to these children."

Children who were awaiting operations at the hospital are being placed with one of 10 other specialist units in the country.

The external review is being led by the South Central Strategic Health Authority, the hospital confirmed.

The spokesman added: "Paediatric cardiac surgery outcomes are nationally validated and the data is published. Oxford has been within normal outcome ranges.

"This is one of the reasons why we felt it was necessary to take a close look at our service to ensure we continue to provide a high quality safe service for our children.

"Sadly, any hospital will have deaths in a service that provides treatment for patients who are very unwell. However, it is right that we take a pause while we look into the individual cases, to see if there is anything to learn from them."

He said it was "a very upsetting time" for patients and staff.

The hospital has a second surgeon who also carries out paediatric heart surgery, Professor Stephen Westaby.