FMQs: Humza Yousaf commits to public inquiry into disgraced surgeon Professor Sam Eljamel

The inquiry into Professor Sam Eljamel has been pursued by victims who had sustained life-changing injuries at the hands of the disgraced surgeon

Humza Yousaf has announced a public inquiry will go ahead into the actions of a disgraced surgeon who performed botched operations on hundreds of patients.

Professor Sam Eljamel worked at NHS Tayside from 1995 until he was suspended in 2013 for what Mr Yousaf described as “despicable actions”.

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Calls for a public inquiry have increased since NHS Tayside published a report last week that revealed Eljamel operated on 111 patients between his suspension and leaving his employment.

The Scottish Government had previously been against the idea of a public inquiry, but health secretary Michael Matheson told MSPs the review undertaken by the health board had changed his mind, citing the fact that new information was still coming to light a decade on.

But he also said Eljamel could not be compelled to appear before the inquiry, due to being outside Scottish and UK jurisdiction, with his last known whereabouts reportedly being in Libya.

Mr Yousaf announced the commitment to an inquiry during First Minister’s Questions, but did not go as far as agreeing to a request for a victim support fund, claiming there were already “appropriate routes” for compensation.

He did admit, however, these routes to compensation “can be difficult to navigate”, reiterating the Government would investigate any support that could be offered.

Jules Rose – who has been campaigning for an inquiry for a decade and formed a pressure group to push for it – said earlier this month more than 200 patients may have been impacted by Eljamel.

Mr Yousaf told MSPs: “This is a deeply important issue and I can inform the chamber today that health secretary Michael Matheson will use his statement to the chamber this afternoon to confirm that the Government has decided to commission a full, independent public inquiry.

“This comes after very careful consideration of the recent due diligence review, which said concerns about Professor Eljamel were not acted on with the urgency they deserved.

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“In commissioning the inquiry, it remains important that those people directly affected are still supported to find the answers they need and that both staff and patients across Scotland know that lessons are being learned.”

Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra, who is among a group of Tayside and Perth-based politicians who have pushed for an inquiry, said the announcement had to be “wrung out of the Government”.

Mr Yousaf said he did not agree with the characterisation, saying both he and the health secretary never ruled out a public inquiry into the disgraced surgeon.

In his statement to Holyrood, Mr Matheson said: “I was of the view that there were other, potentially faster and more individually responsive ways to seek to find the answers for what [the victims] were looking for. However … after considering the findings of the due diligence review, my view has significantly changed.”

The failings exposed in the review can only be examined through a public inquiry, Mr Matheson said, adding the Government had not previously been aware NHS Tayside did not respond to Eljamel’s request for voluntary erasure from the medical register, that there was not oversight from the board of historical information or concerns, and there were multiple reviews where no follow up action was recorded.

Some documents relating to the scandal, the minister said, had also been destroyed, in line with normal practice, when they should have been retained.

“I have reflected on the concerns of former patients and MSPs since the findings were considered by the board of NHS Tayside, and I’m clear that the board’s governance obligations were repeatedly not implemented,” Mr Matheson said.



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