Representing for the number of patients or families of victims of potential medical negligence arising from Maidstone Hospital’s upper GI laparoscopic surgeries, today Thomson Snell & Passmore issued a statement that their request made on 28 February 2014 under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was refused by the hospital.
The request was in relation to the disclosure of the anonymised report (without the patients’ personal details) produced by the Royal College of Surgeons as a result of concerns regarding the complications and death toll following the surgery. The report, which was produced at the hospital’s request, looked into the practices of the hospital and patient safety, and made recommendations.
The refusal by the hospital to disclose the report is highly surprising. The hospital is relying on a Section 41 exemption which is usually only applicable if disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by the Royal College of Surgeons. However, Thomson Snell & Passmore has contacted the Royal College of Surgeons who have confirmed that they have no objection to the disclosure.
The other reason relied on by the hospital is that the report is exempt from disclosure under Section 22 of the Act as it contains information intended for future publication by the hospital themselves. This exemption normally applies to some raw data of research that may be collated or utilised by an organisation at a later stage for research projects. This is clearly not the case here, since the report is complete. No further work is required beyond redacting the personal data.
Contrary to the hospital’s statement in their reply, we can find no indication that there is any settled intention by the hospital to publish the information contained in the report. Thomson Snell & Passmore represents a significant number of patients in this case and none of them have been approached or consulted regarding the hospital’s intention of making the report public. Indeed some patients requested to see the report but have not received it. Another patient asked the Trust to disclose the name of the surgeon who operated on the deceased and this too was turned down.
Our solicitor dealing with the case, Sharon Lam said:
“We have a significant number of patients who approached us concerning upper GI laparoscopic surgeries that went wrong between 2008 and 2014. The period is not just limited to 2012 and 2013 as the hospital has alleged. Only by releasing the report would we have some idea of the number of the potential victims. The patients and their families have a right to know the outcome of the investigation and whether the surgeons concerned are still practising the same type of surgery privately. It is clearly in the public interest to ensure that the report is disclosed as soon as possible. We are currently in correspondence with the hospital in the hope of persuading them to change their mind.”