Inquiry into 140 patients of suspended surgeon

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The Independent Online
AN INDEPENDENT investigation has been ordered into 140 cases handled by a consultant surgeon suspended by a hospital because of concerns over his work.

Steven Walker, 42, a general surgeon, has been stopped from conducting further operations at Blackpool Victoria Hospital while an independent expert is called in to conduct an inquiry. Officials at the trust that runs the hospital were unable to say how many of the patients had died.

The doctor's suspension came to light yesterday at an inquest on Margaret Wilson, 62, who died during an operation by Mr Walker to remove her bowel. A verdict of misadventure was returned and Blackpool coroner Samuel Lee ruled that there was no negligence in the case.

It is understood that Mr Walker was suspended after concerns from colleagues were expressed and there was a routine review of his cases.

An expert still has to be appointed to conduct the inquiry, which officials hope will be completed within two months.

An internal review of the 140 cases handled by Mr Walker has already taken place. The result will be passed to the independent expert.

David Gill, the trust chief executive, said: "Patient safety is, of course, paramount and that is why, as a precautionary measure, this action has been taken. I think it's unlikely that former patients will need to be re-examined, but if following the review this is considered necessary we will contact them to make appropriate arrangements."

Mr Gill said he wanted to stress that yesterday's inquest did not consider the surgeon to be at fault. But as part of the investigation all of his work was being reviewed.

A statement from the trust said: "The Blackpool Victoria Hospital has suspended a consultant general surgeon, Mr Steven Walker, as a result of concerns about his clinical practice being brought to the attention of the trust in December 1998. It has been decided that the surgeon should take no further part in surgery pending the outcome of a review. This is a standard practice of the trust and does not imply there is evidence of poor performance by the surgeon."

It is understood that the inquiry will consider the relative difficulty of the cases handled by Mr Walker in deciding whether any negligence might have been involved. The review will look at all aspects of his work, not just his clinical practice.