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Salford Royal Hospital announces review of spinal surgery patients

A review of spinal surgery patients treated at Salford Royal Hospital has been announced by Northern Care Alliance NHS Trust following concerns raised about the work of surgeon John Bradley Williamson, reports the Sunday Times.

Posted on 25 July 2022

The Sunday Times reports that the review will examine operations carried out by Mr Williamson between January 2009 and August 2014 , as well as other patients subject to concerns about their care.

The trust has brought in surgeon Lee Breakwell, a consultant surgeon from Sheffield Children’s Hospital and barrister Carlo Breen to carry out the review.

Dr Chris Brookes, chief medical officer at the trust, told the newspaper: “We initiated this review after listening to concerns by staff who wanted assurance that the trust had done all it could to ensure we had thoroughly investigated and ensured no patients remained at harm. This may lead to us inviting some patients who have previously had spinal surgery performed by this surgeon back in for an appointment.”

It is reported that Mr Williamson is still registered with the General Medical Council with a licence to practise and is not under investigation.

The Sunday Times report detailed two incidents involving teenagers who had undergone spinal surgery by Williamson. In one case a 17-year-old who was born with spina bifida, underwent surgery in 2007 and died due to massive blood loss. A recent NHS-commissioned report concluded the “unacceptable and unjustifiable” actions of her surgeon, John Bradley Williamson, “directly contributed” to her death.

Another case reported by the newspaper detailed another 17-year-old who suffered severe bleeding into her chest which an internal trust investigation concluded was down to three misplaced screws which severed key blood vessels.

Williamson, who specialised in surgery to treat scoliosis, began working at Salford Royal Hospital in 1996 and was dismissed from in 2015 due to inappropriate behaviour towards a member of staff.

Stephen Jones, head of Leigh Day’s Manchester-based clinical negligence team, said:

“Given the concerns apparently raised by staff it obviously makes sense for the trust to look into everything and set up a review, so I welcome the trust’s decision. However, it is important with any review of this nature that the voices of patients and their families are heard and that this is not simply a paper exercise. Patients need to be at the centre of a process like this to ensure that all relevant questions can be answered and that there is transparency.”

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