Independent review to be carried out into Morecambe Bay health trust’s urology services

The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

An independent inquiry is to be carried out into the urology services run by Morecambe Bay’s health trust.

An NHS regulator has agreed to carry out an external review after concerns dating back to 2001 were raised by patients, families and clinicians following a series of mistakes by three consultants.

Consultant urologist Peter Duffy.

Consultant urologist Peter Duffy.

Clinical errors made by Kavinder Madhra, Ashutosh Jain and Muhammad Naseem contributed to the deaths of two patients, including Peter Read from Morecambe.

Other mistakes included a patient almost having the wrong kidney removed, a teenager having a testicle removed after a wrong diagnosis, a Morecambe cancer patient refused a potentially lifesaving operation and several missed cancers.

Mr Madhra resigned in October 2018 while Mr Jain and Mr Naseem still work at the trust.

The concerns were first brought to light by whistleblower Peter Duffy, who recently published a book about his 16 years at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT).

Peter Duffy's book.

Peter Duffy's book.

The review came about after MPs pressed health secretary Matt Hancock for an inquiry after Mr Duffy’s book was published.

In an exclusive interview with the Lancaster Guardian last year, Mr Duffy said a 10-year campaign against him left him ill and feeling unable to work in the NHS again.

He was torn away from his family and his professional career was left in tatters after he spoke out about allegations of medical negligence.

Mr Duffy was a consultant urologist at the trust when he spoke out about his concerns.

In 2015, and after blowing the whistle on a series of near misses, he reported an avoidable death, cover-up and ongoing surgical risk-taking to the Care Quality Commission.

The 57-year-old father-of-three was labelled racist by colleagues after he raised concerns to the Care Quality Commission about alleged medical malpractice at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

Mr Duffy was later awarded a £102,000 payout by an employment tribunal in Manchester.

In a statement to the tribunal, Mr Duffy said he witnessed a series of errors including several missed cancers.

In one case, Mr Duffy said a major clinical error was narrowly avoided when he spotted a patient was due to have the wrong kidney removed.

Another error saw a young teenager wrongly diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, resulting in the removal of a testicle.

And Mr Duffy said the avoidable death of one patient led to instructions from the coroner not being obeyed.

Mr Duffy said he was subjected to “malicious, toxic and false” allegations over 10 years – none of them substantiated.

Since 2016 he has not been back to work anywhere in the trust.

He later went to work on the Isle of Man – which has a separate health system from the UK – which forced him to live separately from his family and friends.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have agreed to support the inquiry into the concerns raised.

An NHS spokesman said: “Following their request to NHS Improvement, the region is working with the trust and partners in the local health and care system to appoint an independent local reviewer to ensure that the concerns raised about issues in the urology department have been and are dealt with appropriately.”

UHMBT chief executive Aaron Cummins said: “The trust wrote to NHS England/Improvement to ask them to commission an independent review to help ensure that all issues which have been raised across a variety of media regarding our urology service are investigated fully, and to provide reassurance to the public, staff, stakeholders and ourselves, that the service is safe for our patients.

“We also would like the independent review to look at the actions we have carried out in response to concerns being raised to ensure they were appropriate and correct, and use this as an opportunity to improve the way we manage issues.

“We are grateful NHSI/E have responded positively to our request for an external, independent, review and we look forward to contributing to the work once the terms of reference and the process for conducting the review are clarified.”

The news has also been welcomed by Lancaster MP Cat Smith.

She said: “I hope an independent inquiry into the Morecambe Bay trust’s urology department can be the first step into helping local people rebuild trust in the department.

“The revelations in Peter Duffy’s book and subsequent patients coming forward with accounts that back Peter’s account up are deeply concerning and the truth must come out.

“By knowing the truth, and by shining light on the urology department, the trust can start the process of helping local people rebuild trust and confidence in our local hospital.”