Complex heart surgery patients at St Georges Hospital in Tooting will be moved to other hospitals to “enable improvements to be made”, according to hospital bosses.

Managers said on Monday, September 10 that the decision has been taken to allow the hospital’s cardiac surgery service to “focus” on “improvement actions required”.

Bosses at the hospital said they had requested external regulators to oversee work being done to deal with “long-standing issues” relating to the cardiac surgical service, stated they wanted oversight from outsight.

Last month, it was revealed in a report – seen by The Times – that a ‘toxic’ row between surgeons at a cardiac unit contributed to a higher mortality rate. The report says the team was consumed by a ‘dark force,’ which was putting patients at risk.

The average mortality rate nationally is 2 per cent but the unit recorded at St Georges was 3.7 per cent.

The row centred around a litigation with a heart surgeon, Professor Marjan Jahangiri. Managers excluded Professor Jahangiri pending a disciplinary investigation after a bullying allegation.

A High Court judge, in late August, described the move as "irrational". Mr Justice Nicklin, who analysed issues at a High Court hearing in London, said Professor Jahangiri should be allowed to return.

Professor Jahangiri has complained of a breach of contract and litigation is continuing.

The judge was told that bosses were concerned about the working relationship between the six heart surgeons in the unit, and about an "allegedly dysfunctional environment".

"St George's Hospital is temporarily moving the surgical care of a small number of patients requiring the most complex cardiac surgery to other London hospitals to enable improvements to be made," said a hospital spokeswoman on Monday (September 10).

"The number of St George's patients likely to be affected by this decision is small. The decision has been taken in order to allow the cardiac surgery service to focus on the improvement actions required, and in response to feedback from clinicians working in the service."

The spokeswoman went on, in a statement: "It is important to state that routine cardiac surgery at St George's will continue as normal."

Jacqueline Totterdell, chief executive of the St George's University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We have taken this decision to maintain patient safety and to protect the long-term future of our cardiac surgery service. It also follows feedback this week from our clinicians.

"I would like to apologise to the very small number of patients for whom today's decision may naturally cause some concern."

St George's hospital carries out about 1,000 cardiac operations every year