CROYDON University Hospital has been ordered to draw up new guidelines on suspending surgical staff after a coroner said the absence of a senior nurse during an operation contributed to a patient's death.
In July, the Advertiser reported the inquest of Gerald Storey, who died during a routine operation after surgeons got into difficulty and discovered the specialist nurse they needed had been suspended without their knowledge.
His cardiologist consultant, Dr Kevin Beatt, had told the court how management's suspension of the lead nurse, Lucy Jones, had led to a "one in several million chance" of his patient dying, saying he believed "the suspension of Lucy Jones, and the management's failure to tell me this as I operated on Mr Storey, directly contributed to his death," he said.
However, management told the court they had no option but to suspend Sister Jones and were assured the procedure was safe without her.
In an open verdict, the coroner Roy Palmer said: "The absence of Lucy Jones did contribute to the outcome and more things would have been done more quickly if she had been there."
He then issued a Rule 43 – a statement to relevant authorities demanding they reform issues thrown up in a case to prevent further deaths.
As a result, hospital bosses have been ordered to change the way they suspend staff to ensure patient safety is always a priority.
Not only will management have to find an appropriate signature to confirm patient safety, the senior clinician must be informed of any potential suspension beforehand.
The suspended employee must also be able to raise any issues of patient safety they may have in their absence.
Dr Beatt told the Advertiser: "This result of the Rule 43 directly contradicts management's assertion that their suspension of Sister Jones did not contribute to Mr Storey's death.
"By ensuring the way they suspend staff changes, they are admitting there was a problem.
"Every time there is a death like this, there is an internal investigation. Hopefully, now the Care Quality Commission are inspecting the hospital, these failings will come to light."