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Monday, 7 April 2014
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Wexham Park uses out-of-date human body parts in operations - patients at risk

Embarrassed hospital bosses fear public reaction

By Paul Janik

Department of Health inspectors visited Wexham Park Hospital on Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 February, 2014, to carry-out a 2 yearly check.

Two Human Tissue Authority (HTA) inspectors discovered irregularities and discrepancies at the hospital.

The HTA told the Slough Times:

As a result of this inspection, a 'serious event' was reported to us which we are currently investigating.

6 weeks after the February inspection, hospital staff contacted the Slough Times expressing their annoyance at what they said was

Feeble top management's inability to exhibit even basic leadership continues to bring the reputation of this hospital and of its loyal and dedicated staff, struggling in difficult circumstances to do their best for patients, into disrepute. It is unfair to everyone who works so tirelessly for patients.

The HTA Inspection

The HTA is a government regulator, part of the Department of Health, which inspects hospital facilities involved with Human tissues. This includes body flesh, internal organs and bone marrow.

The HTA does not inspect clinical operations or hospital staff.

The HTA's remit to to protect patient health and safety by ensuring all Human parts used to treat patients have been collected, processed, stored and handled using the best possible and most safest methods.

In simple terms the HTA is a medical watchdog (also known as a Regulator) for all Human body parts transplanted into patients. The HTA wants patients receiving Human parts not to die or contact an illness or disease.

Wexham Park Hospital has to apply for, and pay for, a license to handle Human body parts. Routine periodic HTA inspections are made every 2 years. HTA inspectors are not medical doctors but are professionally trained experts in all aspects of Human tissues.

HTA findings

The HTA will publish the final version of its report, after Wexham Park bosses try every trick in the book to downgrade the criticisms, within 90 days of the inspection. That means before 2 June 2014. The report will appear on the HTA web site.

The Slough Times understands Wexham Park Hospital stored Human tissues at too high temperatures reducing their 'use before date' and that the hospital's record keeping was 'abysmally bad' meaning some records may be missing, incomplete or even wrong.

Wexham Park's response

The hospital has asked representatives from the Royal College of Surgeons of England to undertake an urgent and through investigation.

The hospital's Director of Corporate Affairs, Thomas Lafferty, fearing the Mail on Sunday and the Slough Observer newspapers would expose the shocking negligence scandal, hastily prepared the following press statement on Friday afternoon, 4 April 2014, before departing on a two week holiday.

  1. An issue related to the storage of femoral head tissue used for orthopaedic surgery came to light in February this year. The Trust took immediate steps to rectify the problem, and launched an in depth investigation.
  2. As part of this investigation, it has become apparent that two patients who have had orthopaedic surgery at the Trust over the last five years may have been affected.
  3. The investigation is in the final stages of completion and we have contacted the two patients concerned.
  4. Independent advice sought by the Trust from the appropriate regulatory body has established that any potential risk to the patients in question would be negligible.
  5. The Trust would like to reassure any other patients who have undertaken orthopaedic surgery in the last five years that this issue does not affect them.

Are the hospital's claims true ?

The Slough Times asked the hospital's acting chief executive Grant MacDonald:-

  1. The hospital stated
  2. Independent advice sought by the Trust from the appropriate regulatory body has established that any potential risk to the patients in question would be negligible.

  3. The 'appropriate regulatory body' is the Human Tissue Authority who said, very clearly, their inspectors are not medically, or clinically, qualified doctors and are unable to offer medical, or clinical, advice about the heath risks, or absence of heath risks, to the hospital's patients.
  4. Would the Trust like to identify which 'regulatory' organisation offered medical, or clinical, advice stating the effects of using out-of-date Human body parts, stored at excessive temperatures supported by dreadful record keeping is a 'negligible' risk to patient health ?
  5. The hospital's claim that patients operated upon in the last 5 years are not at risk, apart from 2 patients, suggests the alarming conditions have existed for 5 years before being discovered.

We await the hospital's clarification.

More details coming ....

The HTA inspects circa 200 Tissue-handling licensed establishments every year.

Other coverage of this story

The Slough Observer published this story on 11 April 2014 at
sloughobserver.co.uk/news/slough/articles/2014/04/11/99342 and printed it in their weekly edition dated 11 April 2014 on page 2, beneath the heading "Out-of-date bones used in operation".