THE family of a patient who died after receiving “unsatisfactory” care at Hinchingbrooke Hospital have welcomed the transfer of major bowel surgery to Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge.

Hinchingbrooke has agreed to set up an independent external review of colorectal practice at the hospital and to abide by its findings, following a withering report by Cambridgeshire coroners.

Hospital officials confirmed bowel cancer surgery would be undertaken at Addenbrooke's, but it is unclear how other forms of surgery will be handled.

Assistant deputy coroner Dr Sam Bass recorded last week the death of a 67-year-old Huntingdon woman was as a result of a known complication of an operation compounded by gross systems neglect by Hinchingbrooke. He also expressed concerns the hospital's internal review had been subject to “undue influence ... from the clinicians involved,” and was “lacking in independent scrutiny”.

Only two weeks ago doctors from the same department were criticised by coroner David Morris for their care of another patient who died of a complication following treatment for haemorrhoids.

Mr Morris said: “This is one of a series of deaths that have been referred to me and that have caused me serious concern.

“I have also found that several other internal reports have been less than optimal, and a completely independent investigation is now in the interests of patients and the public.”

Patricia Spooner, of Bassenthwaite. was first admitted to Hinchingbrooke in July last year with a bowel condition. When she was discharged in mid-August, the plan was to carry out surgery within two to four weeks, but she was not booked onto a list.

An emergency operation set for September 4 was cancelled because anaesthesia was considered too risky due to an underlying lung condition – though her chest consultant had not been asked for her assessment.

Mrs Spooner was operated on on September 29 but was returned to the ward instead of being transferred to the intensive therapy unit (ITU). She later developed multi-organ failure and died on October 3.

Dr Bass said: “There has been a total lack of communication between the surgical team, the managerial staff, list planners and the key theatre personnel to identify a suitable time for the operation that she needed.

“If she had had her operation on her first admission to hospital or early in her subsequent admission, on the balance of probabilities she would have survived her surgery and would not have died.”

Last month, Mr Morris recorded 51-year-old Jayne Smith, from Somersham. had died “from a rare but recognised complication, which was not recognised or addressed in a timely manner”.

Mrs Smith's husband Glen said an investigation was “long overdue.” “It is a huge relief to know that the issues at the hospital have not been ignored and I, like all of those affected by the serious problems seen at the site, eagerly await answers as to how the safety of services at the hospital will be improved in the future.”

Dr Richard Dickinson, medical director for Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust said, “I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for the shortcomings in care that have been highlighted by HM Coroner.

“We would like to reassure the public that our priority is the safety of our patients and of providing a high quality service for all. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that we achieve this.”

INFORMATION: Hinchingbrooke Hospital has set up a phone line for concerned patients or families. The number is 01480 847530 and it is open between 8am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.