Breast cancer alert as consultant resigns

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The Independent Online
FORTY WOMEN have been recalled for breast checks following an inquiry into the work of a surgeon after two of his patients died.

David Baumber has now resigned from his job as a consultant surgeon for Bury Healthcare NHS Trust in Greater Manchester.

Mr Baumber had not worked for the trust since April when a male patient in his 40s, for whose post-operative care he had been responsible, died after general surgery.

Following concerns raised by nursing staff, the case of a second patient under Mr Baumber's care, a woman in her 60s who had died after general surgery, was re-examined. Concern was expressed about the level of post- operative care.

As a result of the two cases the trust ordered an independent review into Mr Baumber's work at Bury General hospital and at the nearby Fairfield hospital. The review criticised the treatment of patients after surgery but said that it was not clear whether overall care management had contributed to their deaths.

A spokesman for the trust, which runs both hospitals, said that a further review of more than 600 of Mr Baumber's cases was under way, and experts had been called in to examine 460 breast-work cases in detail. Of those, 40 had been recalled for a mammogram.

A 24-hour helpline has been set up to provide counselling for women with breast problems treated by Mr Baumber.

A spokesman for the NHS executive said: "There were criticisms of patient management. The families of the two people and the coroner were kept informed, but the review did not find any cases where the outcome was affected.

"The trust has set up four special clinics and all the women have been contacted. The first nine were all in the clear and the rest are expected to hear today or next week."

Umesh Prabu, medical director of the trust, told The Independent: "The operations were very good, but when the patient developed complications the post-operative care was ill-managed. As a surgeon you have two choices: you either observe, or you go in quickly and operate again. It was felt he had not acted quickly enough.

"The review could not say for sure if the surgery would have done anything to alter the prognosis. You can never be absolutely certain."

Mr Prabu would not describe the surgery carried out as this would breach patient confidentiality. But he said that the families of both patients had been fully apprised of the situation. "We have been very honest with the relatives," he said.

The trust yesterday emphasised that the investigation was only a precautionary measure.

In a statement it said that details of the investigation would be made public but that its primary concern remained the welfare of the 40 patients.

Philip Bacon, trust chief executive, said: "We are very very sorry this has happened." He added that not all patients had undergone surgery but they had all been to hospital with breast-related health problems.

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