Viscount could review rheumatology-linked deaths

Several deaths could be investigated by the Viscount over concerns about treatment at Jersey's rheumatology service, island medical bosses have said.

Deputy medical director Simon West said 11 cases had been highlighted as needing closer examination, and some of these could go to Viscount Mark Harris.

It comes after a Royal College of Physicians (RCP) report criticised the island's rheumatology department, saying its standard of care was "well below" acceptable.

Mr West told the Health and Social Security Scrutiny Panel it was "possible or likely" a very small proportion of patients died as a result of their care.

The Viscount's Department is responsible for carrying out orders made by the Royal Court of Jersey and the duties of the coroner by administering inquests.

Mr West told the scrutiny panel about 90 of the 182 deaths linked to treatment at the rheumatology had been reviewed.

He said, out of these, 11 had been earmarked for further review and health bosses were considering sending a single-figure amount of cases to the Viscount.

Mr West said the investigation of the deaths had been done as part of the wider review of the rheumatology department.

He added it was "right and proper" for a doctor to report to the General Medical Council or the coroner if he or she thought something untoward had happened to a patient due to treatment they received.

The reviews are conducted by an independent doctor followed by a panel meeting with senior physicians, Mr West said.

He added: "If those doctors all felt collectively - having heard the review independently at the meeting - that they felt there was a concern that needed to be raised by the Viscount, then that would occur."

Legal action threat

In April, it was reported Jersey's government could launch a group compensation scheme for patients found by the review to have been given the wrong diagnoses or medication for joint and muscle problems.

Health and Social Services Minister Tom Binet said he was committed to forming an action plan by the end of June to complete the recommendations made by the RCP.

Lawyers said a "significant number" of people wanted to take legal action against the Health Department.

'Avoid speculation'

Mr West's comments to the scrutiny panel were brought up during Tuesday's States Assembly.

Deputy Jonathan Renouf, vice-chairman of the panel, asked the health minister if he would provide a comprehensive update given the comments around it being "likely" the deaths were caused by care in the department.

Mr Binet said he had little to add that "wasn’t in the public domain".

He added was "a little bit anxious" about statements being made about the deaths and certain matters being referred to the Viscount as it is "incumbent to hear what the Viscount has to say before speculating".

Deputy Sir Philip Bailhache, who also sits on the health scrutiny panel, said to the States Assembly that his exchange with the deputy medical director led him to come to a different conclusion.

In addressing the health minister during the States sitting, he said: "The deputy medical director stated later in an answer to me that it's possible that the Viscount would find no cases required further investigation."

Mr Binet thanked Mr Bailhache for making the point and said he "wished people would wait until they hear what the Viscount has to say".

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