Bosses at the NHS trust than runs Brighton’s main hospitals have defended their decision to redact a report from the Royal College of Surgeons.
It was one of a number of safety reports highlighted by the BBC television programme Panorama this week.
The BBC said that University Hospitals Sussex had heavily redacted the report after an external review of the trust’s troubled neurosurgery department by the Royal College of Surgeons.
The department has one of the longest patient waiting lists at the trust which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital, the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Sussex Eye Hospital, in Brighton, as well as other hospitals in Shoreham, Worthing, Chichester and Haywards Heath.
The BBC quoted Healthwatch Brighton and Hove chief executive David Liley calling for the report to published.
Mr Liley said: “We’ve no evidence there is any smoking gun but, of course, if there is, it should be in the public domain.
“If there isn’t, we should have the reassurance.”
The BBC said that the review was uncovered as part of a Panorama investigation into unpublished patient safety reports.
The current affairs programme said: “Serious patient safety issues are being buried in confidential hospital reports.
“Freedom of Information requests revealed 111 reports, written by medical royal colleges, which NHS trusts have a duty to share.
“Eighty reports were given to the BBC but only 26 had been shared in full with regulators and 16 published.”
Panorama added: “The Department of Health would not comment on whether it might change the law to ensure publication.”
The BBC said: “The trust said in a letter that revealing more details would ‘inhibit the free and frank’ exchange of views and would have a ‘chilling effect’ on the willingness of staff to participate in any future reviews.
“However, it said it had decided to disclose additional information where it ‘portrayed the services positively or would likely cause minimal harm’.
“It said it hoped this would ‘provide assurance and demonstrate that patient satisfaction associated with these services was ‘good’ and that the quality of these services was ‘high’.
“In one section about the management of ‘complications and surgical techniques’ the trust redacted all of the review’s findings, with the exception of a single sentence that showed the hospital was not ‘an outlier in any outcomes when compared with peers’.
“In a factual section, the number of incidents was included in a table.
“The trust chose to reveal the number of incidents resulting in ‘no harm’ and ‘low’ harm but redacted the number of incidents resulting in ‘moderate’ and ‘severe’ harm.”
And the BBC quoted the trust’s medical director Dr Rob Haigh saying that the royal college was invited to “share their expert views on how we could improve” – and, while no safety issues were found, a “number of useful recommendations” were made.
Mr Haigh said: “We have made improvements aligned to these recommendations and the college has now concluded its work with us.”
He added that the full report could not be released as it “contains confidential information” but the trust said that it had spoken to the Care Quality Commission about the key issues in the review and its approach to improvements.
The Panorama episode Hospital secrets uncovered is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.
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