Move for a better cut of surgeon

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Hospitals providing emergency surgery should be halved to concentrate skills and raise standards, the Royal College of Surgeons said yesterday.

Accidents involving inexperienced surgeons operating without adequate supervision, which have resulted in deaths and injuries to patients, had been identified in a series of reports, the college said. The increasing complexity of surgery meant that concentrating skills in larger centres was the only way to improve the service and protect patients.

In a report published yesterday the college says the ideal emergency surgical service should serve a population of 500,000, about twice the current average. Sir Rodney Sweetnam, president of the college, said: "A comprehensive service can no longer be provided in every district general hospital. We are not suggesting the closure of hospitals. We are suggesting that the time has come for them to co-operate with each other." Hospitals within half an hour's travelling time of each other should consider concentrating emergency surgical services on one site while the other provided non-urgent surgery, out-patient or other treatment. Politicians, the public and the profession would have to accept that not every service could be provided close to home.