Erecting the barricades

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 30 November 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1262

Are English surgeons sabotaging government plans to use foreign teams to cut waiting lists? Matthew Limb investigates

Recent incidents have raised questions about the effectiveness of flying in teams of surgeons from abroad to help reduce NHS waiting lists.

While certain initiatives have been considered successful, others have seriously misfired. One surgical team left without completing its work, and another went home without performing a single operation.

But claims that some English consultants are deliberately thwarting the policy to retain control over lucrative private practice are being vigorously denied.

A review was ordered last month by trust management at Mid Staffordshire General Hospitals NHS Trust after complaints that an ophthalmology team flown in from Germany to do cataract operations at Cannock Chase Hospital, Cannock, withdrew “to catch a plane,” leaving NHS staff to complete the list. Only two of five scheduled operations were completed.

Nick Price, clinical director of Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary, was one of four local consultants who raised fears for patient safety, claiming that preparations made for the visit were inadequate as a result of “pressure” to proceed with the scheme.

But he refuted any suggestion that colleagues were intent on scuppering the initiative out of self interest, saying: “The work that was being done by the overseas team was not work that was a threat to the private practice of those consultants.”

In a separate incident, it was reported …

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