Health group handed six-figure fine after illegal storage of human tissue

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A healthcare group has been fined £100k, following its illegal storage of human tissue at Edgbaston Hospital.

Circle Health Group, formerly known as BMI Healthcare was handed a fined after a length investigation by the Human Tissue Authority, West Mercia Police and West Midlands Police.

BMI Edgbaston was found to have illegally stored human tissue samples over a period of at least 11 years, collected under the direction of a surgeon Derek McMinn, without holding an appropriate Human Tissue Authority licence. McMinn, who invented a hip treatment used on tennis star Sir Andy Murray, was suspended in 2020.

The hospital subsequently allowed the human tissue to be removed from the hospital, again under the direction of the surgeon, to a private address which was also not covered by an appropriate licence. Also, no reasonable enquiries were made to see if a licence existed.

Inappropriate storage of human tissue at the hospital was previously highlighted in both 2015 and 2019 following an internal audit, but the response by management at the hospital was found to be wholly inadequate in addressing failings and it was evident there was a poor understanding and interpretation of the Human Tissue Act.

Circle Health Group was handed the fine on October 2023 at Worcester Crown Court, after pleading guilty to the offences in July.

Detective Inspector Mark Walters, senior investigating officer for West Mercia Police, said: “This is an unusual case and prosecutions under the Human Tissue Act are rare which indicates the severity of the failings by the Circle Health Group in this matter.

“The Human Tissue Act 2004 is in place to provide safeguards and standards as to how institutions retain, store and dispose of an individual’s human tissue. It is essential that the requirements of the act are adhered to by everyone at all times.

“The serious breach of the licencing requirements by the Circle Health Group over a prolonged period of time undermines the trust placed in the hospital by patients and their families that their human tissue would be dealt with appropriately, ethically and in accordance with the law”.

A spokesperson for Edgbaston Hospital told “This matter relates to a historic practice directed by a former consultant who no longer sees patients at our facility. We acknowledge that the previous management failed to obtain a licence from the HTA to temporarily store tissue on behalf of the consultant for research purposes.

“The hospital is now under new management and ownership and has seen a transformation in quality and safety, with a strong track record of delivering rapid, high-quality treatment for local patients.”

Dr Colin Sullivan, Chief Executive of the Human Tissue Authority added: “I welcome the conclusion of this case and the successful prosecution of Circle Health Group Limited.

“This sends a strong message to anyone wanting to use human tissue that they must follow the law”.