ARI surgeons under investigation cleared by watchdog

The Press and Journal

26 September 2016 by Stephen Walsh

The former Queen’s Surgeon is among eight consultants who have been cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation into the conduct of medics at the north-east’s flagship hospital.

And the General Medical Council probe – which lasted nearly two years – is understood to have cost NHS Grampian about £5million.

It has also been claimed health bosses have had to draft in staff from other areas to help fill vacancies after most of the surgeons being investigated left the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary department.

There are currently four positions still to be filled.

Professor Zygmunt Krukowski, who was the Queen’s personal physician when she was in Scotland, was suspended from his job in May 2015 following a probe into his practices at ARI.

His colleague Dr Wendy Craig was also suspended by the health board.

Both quit NHS Grampian in April, with Prof Krukowski understood to have retired, while Dr Craig is now working in the north-east of England.

Now an insider has claimed the cost of paying the consultants’ salaries, legal payouts, hiring locum doctors, and outsourcing operations was at least £5million – and could rise.

They said: “Ultimately, this is wasting millions which should be directed towards improved patient care.

“Instead, specialities are left uncovered with procedures carried out haphazardly by those not previously practising or fully trained in key areas.”

The investigation was triggered by a controversial report published by the Royal College of Surgeons England at a turbulent period for the health board, with a number of high-profile resignations, including that of then-chief executive Richard Carey.

The report found “significant numbers” of surgeons had shown “unprofessional, offensive and unacceptable behaviour”, with rows between medics in front of trainees and patients among the complaints.

However, the quality of the report has been criticised amid claims it is partly based on hearsay and uncorroborated allegations made by some staff.

North-east MSP Ross Thomson has raised concerns about the RCSE’s report.

He said: “If all of the consultants who were referred to the GMC following the Royal College of Surgeons of England report have now been cleared, then that raises serious questions about the quality of the evidence that was gathered and presented to NHS Grampian.

“These were very serious allegations and the whole episode will have been extremely distressing for the consultants involved and their families.

“I would be interested to read the findings of the GMC in terms of their deliberation of these complaints and the apparent decision to take no further action.”

Last night, the GMC confirmed it had concluded its inquiries.

Its chief executive, Niall Dickson, said: “We have closed these cases based on a careful review of all the evidence available to us.

“That evidence included an independent report by the Royal College of Surgeons of England which was shared with us by the health board.

“Patient safety is our first priority and we acted appropriately in our duty to look at those concerns further.”

It is understood that three of the surgeons subject to investigation are still employed by Grampian.

However, it is believed the remaining five, including Prof Krukowski and Dr Craig, were also subject to an internal inquiry and have now either retired or moved on elsewhere.

NHS Grampian has said its surgery team is led locally by Professor Duff Bruce.

The health board also said it would not comment on legal issues or individual salaries but said it relied on existing staff, medics from other health boards, and locums to fill in when necessary.

A spokeswoman added: “If a member of staff is being investigated by the GMC and is still employed by us, they continue to be paid.

“This is consistent with national policy for NHS workers. We work closely with our regulator and the GMC makes the decision whether or not to investigate any individual doctor.”

RCSE declined to comment.

The first medic to be cleared was Malcolm Loudon, the whistleblower who first contacted the Scottish Government about failing leadership at ARI in 2014.

Mr Loudon’s revelations ultimately led to three separate inquiries being launched into ARI and Woodend Hospital.

The crisis led to the departures of board chairman Bill Howatson and chief executive Richard Carey.

A review by Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) – ordered by the Scottish Government – also expressed concerns about the conduct in general surgery and its impact on patient care.

The review by the RCSE was commissioned by Grampian’s former medical director Dr Roelf Dijkhuizen, who later retired.

The report was kept secret for more than a year, despite the Press and Journal making two attempts to view it under freedom of information rules.

At one stage, the health board released the 69-page report but blocked out 49 pages with thick black ink.

Then, in April of this year the Scottish Information Commissioner ruled the health board should disclose a further 4.5% of the report.

Last night, Mr Loudon said questions still had to be answered over the relationship between the health board and the GMC’s Scottish representative.

He said: “I’m delighted to hear that all my colleagues have been cleared in the same fashion as I was.

“Now it’s time that questions were answered about the roles of both NHS Grampian and the employee liaison officer of the GMC in Scotland.

“It seems that the employment liaison officer has acted as a funnel for NHS Grampian to push through information to the GMC.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, said: ‘This was a complex investigation, made more so by the requirement to seek responses and advice from a range of experts and advisers, while respecting the administrative processes of other bodies which some doctors were engaged with.

“However, we are confident that we have closed this matter in an appropriate length of time while ensuring all concerned were treated fairly.”

 

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2 thoughts on “ARI surgeons under investigation cleared by watchdog

  1. Ah yes…. the GMC “protecting the public”. The NMC similarly during my three cases over four years before finally being struck off recently a year after being personally recognized via phone call by the CQC for stopping generations of seclusion abuse (“used as a way of managing wards”, (CQC Report Roseberry Park Hospital NHS, July 2014). The NMC is a GMC carbon copy and my view as a former nurse behaviour therapist is that it is a self-interested prosecution agency that Thomas Cromwell would instantly recognize. An infinitely financed regulator handed over to lawyers as a personal playground populated by an army of apparently earnest administrators managed in the sure knowledge that whoever loses it wont be them. Their toxicity is revealed by a prosecutor zeal that extends to tampering evidence and adjusting and creating absurd charges. For example their “investigating” solicitor determined that looking at a patients computer record of an abused patient in a forensic hospital was after all legitimate so adjusted it to “complained about abuse with the victims consent”. Contracted investigating solicitors Morgan-Cole LLB held their own review last year following another cases very damaging High Court appeal and determined that the integrity of prosecution witnesses wasn’t being sufficiently established. Basically anyone can say what they like without corroboration and if the panel find it “compelling” then “charge proved”. If you argue or present proof of innocence then you are merely failing to show “insight” into your “proven” misdemeanor. If you persist then it is “remorse” that you are failing to show and the Calvinism can almost be heard. References will be made to such things as your “manner” in the hearing room as additional matters. In short the regulators are far more corrupt and dangerous to society than many of the registrants being prosecuted. A senior NMC case examiner declared that the resulting internal service inquiry report resulting from one of my complaints found nothing untoward and required no action yet the reports finding acknowledged that neck-grab marching a vulnerable person the length of the corridor inserting into distressed bedroom seclusion on the part of one support worker was wrong and required re-training. The senior NMC case examiner concluded by describing the incident as “planned guidance”. There is something seriously wrong with these fitness to practice departments.

  2. Pingback: NHS whistleblowing articles in 2016: TWO years post Francis Review with NO change | sharmilachowdhury

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