BY ALICE FULLER
A heart surgeon who was last year unlawfully excluded from her job has been awarded a prestigious position.
Professor Marjan Jahangiri, 57, was appointed chairwoman of the Specialist Advisory Committee for Cardiothoracic surgery – but there is no mention of this accolade on the hospital website.
The committee governs all training of cardiothoracic surgery in the UK.
Professor Jahangiri took St George’s Hospital, in Tooting, to court after it excluded her in
August 2018 in connection with a review about working relationships in the cardiac surgery unit, because of falling morale, reported by the main hospitals watchdog last December.
The trust’s decision to exclude Professor Jahangiri was overturned by the High Court after she took legal action against hospital bosses.
The judge ruled the exclusion was unlawful and ordered her reinstatement.
A joint statement from St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and
Professor Jahangiri said the exclusion did not relate to patient safety concerns or to Professor Jahangiri’s skills or competence.
“The Trust commends Professor Jahangiri’s longstanding commitment and dedication to
the cardiac surgery service and to patients.
“She has helped build the unit and has been instrumental in training many other cardiac surgeons.
“The Trust apologies to Professor Jahangiri for excluding her, for the subsequent interim
proceedings in the High Court, and the distress that this caused her.”
“Professor Jahangiri and the Trust have entered into a private settlement in relation to these
matters, the terms of which are confidential.
“The Trust has taken steps to learn from these events to ensure that this does not happen to any other member of staff.”
The Care Quality Commission a year ago warned St George’s University Hospitals NHS Trust that its cardiac surgery unit in Tooting must improve.
CQC carried out a focused inspection at St George’s Hospital on dates in August and September 2018, following concerns about patient outcomes, mortality rates and the culture
and leadership of the cardiac surgery unit.
Inspectors found that the service was safe but leadership of the unit was weak, although this was being revised in an attempt to improve the service. CQC found that consultant surgeons mistrusted each other, as did cardiologists, anaesthetists and senior leaders.
Several consultant surgeons said morale was low. There was a fall in the number of patients
using the service, as high-risk patients were being diverted to other hospitals.
England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said last December: “Issues such as weak leadership, internal unrest and multiple electronic patient record systems are just some of the problems affecting St George’s Hospital cardiac surgery unit.
“We have told the trust it must now take steps to improve the morale, culture and systems
within the unit. Colleagues at NHS Improvement have set up an independent scrutiny panel for cardiac surgery, to advise, challenge and support the trust through this difficult time.”
CQC findings included: that there was a lack of cohesion and poor working conditions between surgeons; a culture of not learning from incidents; the quality of mortality and morbidity meetings were poor; multiple patient record systems were problematic; low morale; a lack of ongoing and regular oversight.
The hospital said in May: “The exclusion did not relate to patient safety concerns or to Professor Jahangiri’s skills or competence.
The Trust accepts it failed to correctly follow its internal procedures. At the High Court on 24 August 2018, Mr Justice Nicklin handed down his judgment that Professor Jahangiri’s exclusions were unlawful and issuing her with an interim injunction requiring the Trust to lift the exclusions. The Trust immediately lifted the exclusion.”
The hospital has since appointed Steven Livesey, an experienced cardiac surgery specialist,
to lead the cardiac service. The hospital added in its statement: “Professor Jahangiri welcomes the involvement of Mr Livesey and looks forward to working with him.
“The Trust commends Professor Jahangiri’s long-standing commitment and dedication
to the cardiac surgery service and to patients. She has helped build the unit and has been
instrumental in training many other cardiac surgeons.
Professor Jahangiri is the aortic lead at the Trust and she plays an important role in research within the cardiac surgery unit. In 2018, Professor Jahangiri was awarded the BMJ Clinical Leadership Team award and was one of three finalists for the Silver Scalpel Award for training excellence at the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the Association of Surgeons in Training. The Trust apologises to Professor Jahangiri for excluding her, for the subsequent interim proceedings in the High Court, and the distress that this caused her. Professor Jahangiri and the Trust have entered into a private settlement in relation to
these matters, the terms of which are confidential.”