PATIENTS who underwent botched bowel procedures at the hands of a suspended Worcester surgeon have hit out what they say is lack of safeguards to prevent it happening again.

Medical lawyers representing patients who underwent the procedures at the hands of a Sudip Sarker say their clients remain frustrated that Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has taken no steps to reassure victims that safeguards have been put in place to prevent the same scandal occurring again.

They represented over 20 patients and concerned relatives who lost loved ones following treatment by Sudip Sarker who is now the subject of an investigation by West Mercia Police. They say that despite the trust admitting liability and settling a number of cases, it has still not confirmed to the victims or their lawyers the remit of its own investigations and what lessons will be learnt.

The firm says that many of its clients did not receive recall letters from the trust and only learnt they might be at risk through reading reports in the press, prompting questions as to whether the trust did enough to contact those who might need further care and support.

Mr Sarker joined the trust in August 2011 specialising in colon and bowel cancer treatment with keyhole surgery. He treated patients at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, sister hospital of the Worcestershire Royal Hospital in Worcester, and performed work for a number of private hospitals.

However, despite concerns being raised by trust managers in July 2012 to the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Mr Sarker was able to continue to operate on patients for a further three months before he was finally excluded.

An investigation by the RCS found his death rates were twice as high as his colleagues and the General Medical Council (GMC) has now placed restrictions on his license. The police are also investigating however no charges have yet been made and the inquest into three patients who died following treatment by Mr Sarker is on hold until the police investigation is complete.

Hannah Wallace, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office leading the group action, said: “The trust must reassure them that every possible step is being taken to protect patient safety as well as confirm that the findings of its internal investigations will be communicated openly and transparently to all those affected so they can try and begin to understand how it was possible for them to become caught up in such an unimaginable scandal.

"It is the least they deserve after being put through utter hell, which for many of them is on-going now as they continue to need further treatment as a direct result of Mr Sarker’s substandard techniques."

Penny Venables, chief executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS trust, said: “The trust is co-operating fully with the police and the coroner on their investigation into colorectal surgeon, Mr Sudip Sarker.

"We would like to reassure patients and their relatives that as soon as it became aware there was a potential problem we acted swiftly and responsibly to protect our patients. We alerted the Royal College of Surgeons in July 2012 and asked them to review his clinical practice. While the review was on-going the trust put restrictions on the surgeon’s practice. He was excluded from the Trust in October 2012.

An expert multidisciplinary team has reviewed the medical records of all his patients. All high risk patients were recalled for further assessment and appropriate investigations in 2012/2013. As this is a police investigation the trust cannot release any further details.”

A police spokesman said: "West Mercia Police can confirm that they are carrying out an investigation into the deaths of a number of patients who were formerly under the care of consultant surgeon Sudip Sarker while he was working for the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

We were made aware that there were a number of concerns in relation to the deaths of patients in 2012 who had been under Mr Sarker’s care.

This is a complex matter which will undoubtedly take a considerable amount of time to investigate thoroughly.

We are very mindful of the importance of patient confidentiality and the impact on the wider community. We will continue to liaise with the key partner agencies involved and people can rest assured that we will be conducting our inquiries in a sensitive and appropriate manner as befitting an investigation of this nature."

Case Study – Roy Fuchco

Roy is a 59-year-old man who was treated at the Alexandra Hospital for bowel cancer and had successful open surgery in 2009 to remove the cancerous cells.

In 2011 a polyp was discovered which confirmed the presence of further cancerous cells and he was referred immediately to the Alexandra Hospital where he was told that he needed urgent keyhole surgery which would be performed by Mr Sarker.

In early 2012, Roy underwent the surgery which he was aware could result in a stoma (external pouch to remove waste), but was not told until after the procedure by Mr Sarker that it would not be reversible.

When he woke from surgery, Roy was shocked to discover he had a large wound around his belly button that had not been stapled because Mr Sarker had converted the procedure to open surgery mid-way through following complications. Roy was also informed that his bowel had been removed.

Over the following days, Roy continued to be in and out of hospital due to suffering dehydration associated with a high stoma output, suffering from hospital acquired pneumonia and an infection in his wound.

Over the following weeks, Roy lost eight stones because of dehydration and was eventually diagnosed with Celiac disease after being referred by his GP to a different hospital.

Expert evidence commissioned by Irwin Mitchell, which has been instructed to investigate the care Roy received, expressed criticism of the standard of surgery procedure performed by Mr Sarker. It was revealed that Mr Sarker had failed to remove all of Roy’s bowel and in fact his rectal stump had been left. Roy now requires regular medical observation to check for development of cancer in the retained stump and he faces the prospect of further surgery to remove the stump in order to eradicate the risk of cancer that currently hangs over him