SOME of the most complex reconstructive surgeries can no longer be performed at Worcestershire Royal Hospital (WRH), but it is not down to the death of Maureen Robson, a trust chief has said.

Dr Graham James, deputy chief medical officer for Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, said head and neck cancer surgeries of the highest complexities are now being transferred to hospitals in Birmingham and Coventry.

He said this is down to a staffing problem, but was not directly linked to Mrs Robson, 77, who died in November 2017 in the Intensive Care Unit at Worcester, after mouth cancer surgery.

“This death happened 18 months ago, and we have only just ceased doing over complex surgery,” said Dr James, also a lead consultant for oral and maxillofacial surgery.

“We don’t have the proper medical team to be confident we can look after the complex needs of those patients regarding surgical and medical aftercare.

“We are putting in measures so we can carry on with slightly less complex procedures and provide the support necessary,” he added.

The inquest into Mrs Robson’s death, which concluded on Thursday (March 1), found the pensioner and former publican from Studley, “died as a result of a known albeit rare complication following necessary surgery”.

She was fitted with a tracheostomy tube to ensure a reliable airway was retained before and after mouth cancer surgery at WRH.

However, having been transferred to the Intensive Care Unit following the surgery, she began having breathing problems before going into cardiac arrest and dying.

Dr James said the changes will result in around 10-12 patients a year being moved to bigger tertiary centres which have greater numbers of senior consultants.

“It’s because we are one consultant down, which reflects a national difficulty in recruiting at this level,” he continued.

“We have just not had as many through from the training programme. General doctors coming through are just less experienced.”

Dr James said a consultant left last August and the team got to the point where they couldn’t offer the sufficient support anymore.

“There’s always something that tips the balance,” he continued. “We have been unable to recruit, and we had to make that decision.

“We reached the stage where we couldn’t accommodate the most complex cases.”

He went on to say: “We are acting in the best interests of the patients to keep everyone safe.”

He said only one patient has had their surgery cancelled at the last minute following the changes which have come in in the last couple of weeks.

Dr James was keen to emphasise that he and his team “will be able to continue with the majority of cases”.

Last month, we reported that Tony Teale, 63, was due to have an operation at WRH in relation to his oral cancer, but it was cancelled just three days before on January 25.

A trust spokeman said: “We would like to express our condolences to the family of Mrs Robson for their loss.”

“We recognise the coroner concluded that Mrs Robson died as result of a known consequence of a necessary surgical procedure and was satisfied that there were no issues relating to her care at WRH.

"All surgery carries an element of risk and while we make every effort to protect our patients, sometimes complications arise during or after surgery and sadly some of these result in the patient’s death.”