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Whittington weight-loss surgeon temporarily banned following death of 39-year-old mother after operation

16:16 01 August 2013

Jane White, 39, pictured on her wedding day, died following weight loss surgergy at the Whittington Hospital

Jane White, 39, pictured on her wedding day, died following weight loss surgergy at the Whittington Hospital

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An investigation has been launched and a surgeon suspended after a mother he operated on at the Whittington Hospital died, it emerged this week.

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Surgeon Dugal Heath has been temporarily banned from performing gastric bypasses and bands after 39-year-old mother-of-three, Jane White, died in September last year.

An inquest in June this year heard she died of “multiple organ dysfunction due to complications” after weight-loss surgery. The Trust and the surgeon are now facing court action from Mrs White’s husband over the incident.

Dr Heath is the subject of a General Medical Council (GMC) probe and has six conditions against him, including not performing weight-loss surgery while the investigation is carried out.

Figures published by NHS England state that he took part in 38 bariatric operations in 2012.

His last operation was in December 2012 – the same time the temporary “exclusion” ban was imposed by the Whittington Hospital.

In 2011, an inquest heard how another woman, Kim Blake, a mother-of-one from Kentish Town, died from malnutrition caused by complications following bariatric surgery at the hospital.

Dr Heath carried out the initial operation in January 2010 which passed without complications, but Ms Blake could not keep any food down afterwards.

Although no obstruction was found, surgeons at the Whittington performed a second operation to correct the problem but it failed to work. A third operation performed after her care was transferred to University College Hospital in Bloomsbury by the hospital’s lead bariatric surgeon also failed to find any obstruction – but Ms Blake continued to deteriorate and died in December 2010, before an operation to reverse the procedure could be carried out.

A case review could now be opened which will look into previous operations and their outcomes by assessing patient notes and conducting interviews.

There were just three “post-operative in-hospital” deaths across the country as a result of weight-loss surgery last year, according to the National Bariatric Surgery Registry.

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said: “It really is a last resort. It’s not a simple operation and when you start playing around and moving people’s bodies and shrinking their stomachs to a tiny size of what it really is, there can be consequences.”

Whittington Health NHS Trust currently has three permanent bariatric surgeons and two locum ones.

A Trust spokesman said: “Whittington Health can confirm that a consultant general and bariatric surgeon has been excluded from the Trust while investigations are carried out into his practice. The consultant general surgeon was excluded in December 2012. The Trust is cooperating with the GMC who they notified about the exclusion.”

Whittington Hospital board papers published in June said the death would be “reported” at that month’s public board meeting, but medical directors failed to bring it up at their June or July meetings.

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