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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 18:26 GMT
Surgeons lift threat to halt ops
Doctors are satisfied with assurances over patient safety
Surgeons have withdrawn a threat to halt operations at a Portsmouth hospital because of fears over patient safety.

The orthopaedic surgeons at the Queen Alexandra Hospital feared a shortage of properly sterilised equipment.

In a letter to management, they said it was no longer safe to carry out emergency trauma surgery.

However, they now say they are satisfied with the assurances they have received from bosses at the NHS trust.

But after meeting bosses on Friday, consultant surgeon Hugh Clark said at a press conference that his colleagues were now happy that patients' safety could be guaranteed and they would continue with emergency operations.

Independent review

Portsmouth Hospitals Trust has pledged an independent review of sterilisation of surgical equipment and more than 500,000-worth of new instruments as part of an action plan.

Mr Clark said that the number of clean instruments had sunk to a "critical level" during the last two weeks, prompting his colleagues to write to the trust.

He said that at the time the hospital would not have been able to cope with a major incident requiring trauma surgery because staff would have been "catastrophically swamped."

But he now said that surgery would continue pending the outcome of the independent review and he was happy that the patients' safety could be guaranteed for both emergency and routine orthopaedic operations such as knee and hip replacements.

Acting Chief Executive of the Hospitals' Trust Dr Peter Howlett admitted there had been "a serious shortfall" and that bosses would do everything they could to get services back on track.

The hospital's sterilisation unit has not been working properly since June.

Doctors had become infuriated at the slow response of the management team in resolving the problem.

The issue came to a head earlier this month when a patient was brought to the hospital with a multiple fracture needing surgery.

It took the surgeon involved six hours to find the necessary equipment.

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