The Sunday Times has reported that a patient died after managers at an NHS hospital failed to reassign a neurosurgical team to his case over a weekend.
Weekend managers at the hospital had allocated funds to pay staff to clear a backlog of operations. While some of these were urgent procedures, many were not life-threatening and included a wisdom tooth extraction and a broken ankle.
Due to the extra staffing, a neurosurgical team, including a brain surgeon, a radiologist and an anaesthetist were in the hospital and could have treated Mr Venturi. However, when the consultant neurosurgeon pleaded with hospital managers to allow his team to operate on Mr Venturi, managers refused. The locum consultant neurosurgeon in charge of Mr Venturi's care, Dr Roger Hunter, is quoted by The Sunday Times as saying: "There were two what are called ‘initiative lists’, doing less urgent lists, where people were paid extra money outside of their duty. Admittedly, most of the cases being done were urgent or semi-urgent, but all could wait. All of them were less urgent than Mark. […] I said, 'They have got to stop the list; they have to divert the resources to Mark Venturi.'" However, Dr Hunter said that the managers declined.
Mr Venturi's surgery was not carried out until the Monday and he died two weeks later, on 3 May 2011. The Sunday Times reports that the inquest into his death concluded that the delayed treatment was likely to have contributed to his death. Barts Health apologised for the failings in Mr Venturi's care.
Mr Venturi's parents and his treating consultant consider that the Royal London Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust, was less concerned with patient care and more concerned with meeting government targets and their wish to gain foundation trust status. Barts Health has rejected these claims and says that the trust was not actively applying for such status at the time. The Sunday Times writes that, for several years, neurosurgical consultants at Barts Health had been raising concerns about inadequate theatre time and staffing for neurosurgical patients.
The Sunday Times also considers that Mr Venturi is, 'the latest victim of poor NHS care at weekends to emerge' and is currently running a campaign to ensure hospitals have safe levels of consultants throughout the week.
Camilla Wonnacott, case manager in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons, said: “This is a sad story highlighting a dangerous combination of the lack of consistent medical care provision at weekends and hospital trusts being focused on targets and statistics and not patient care. To have situations where clinicians’ concerns are ignored and a patient doesn’t receive the urgent care they need – particularly when this could have been made available – is something which we hope that reviews like the Keogh report will start to address.”