The privatised Surgicentre clinic run by Clinicenta, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Carillion construction firm (formerly part of the Tarmac Group) is being investigated following the death of two of its patients.

Concerns raised in August

The investigation follows concerns initially raised in August 2012, after it was feared that six of the surgery’s patients may have suffered irreversible loss of sight due to disruptions in their treatment and delays in their follow-up care.

Lack of access to ICU

The clinic, located at the NHS Lister hospital in Hertfordshire (a second site is located in Chelsea, London), reportedly carried out surgical procedures on patients without having access to an intensive care unit. Both patients were transferred following routine surgery in September, where they both later tragically died.

A clear concern for patients, highlighted by investigations such as this is that the Government’s drive towards privatisation, by opening up the National Health Service to the commercial ‘profit-making’ sector, could lead to similar issues. If poor surgical outcomes or medical errors occur in private clinics, access to appropriate remedial treatment is essential. If that treatment involves ICU or other specialist input, patients will be concerned that smaller private clinics cannot provide that. A health care provider’s priority should be to protect and safeguard its patients. The controversial Health and Social Care Act, which came into force in July 2008, should not solely be seen as an opportunity to expand business and in turn increase the profits of the private companies managing them.

Initially GPs were advised to refer their patients to alternative clinics, however, The Observer reported on Sunday that the majority are now proactively discouraging patients from seeking treatment from this private health care provider as deaths following routine surgery are so uncommon.

Multiple criticisms have also been voiced surrounding the clinic’s failure to upload the details of approximately 8,500 out-patients onto a treatment database. Hertfordshire Primary Care Trust has described the deaths as serious incidents and as a result of the deaths and multiple failings, a thorough investigation into the management of the clinic will now follow.

Considerations of removal of Carillion’s licence to provide healthcare in the UK due to the local community and numerous medical practitioners having lost confidence in the clinics ability to provide adequate health care at the standard expected has been reported.

Stephen McPartland, Conservative MP, having already called for the closure of the clinic in August this year, is keen to stress that the criticisms raised are not of the medical staff employed by the clinic but of the way in which the clinic is managed.

The Local Medical Committee has reiterated that GPs ‘should not refer patients to a service for which they have reasonable and genuine concerns that the quality is substandard’. That conclusion seems obvious but there remains the wider concern that if private clinics do not have access to the wider range of services that most NHS District General Hospitals have, their patients are at a potential disadvantage should a problem occur with their treatment.

You have a right to complain about treatment received at both privatised clinics and those run by the National Health Service.