Lessons must be learned from Lucy Letby case when investigating disgraced surgeon Eljamel
Those calling for a public inquiry into disgraced neurosurgeon Professor Sam Eljamel say lessons must be learned from how whistleblowers in the Lucy Letby case were treated.
Eljamel was suspended as the head of neurosurgery at NHS Tayside back in 2013 after “butchering” numerous patients with botched operations. Almost 100 patients who were left with life-changing injuries are demanding a public inquiry is held.
The group is planning to stage a graphic protest outside the Scottish Parliament next week, and say health boards and the Scottish Government must reflect on how medical professionals who raised concerns about Letby were treated.
Senior doctors on her ward had repeatedly raised concerns about her link to the growing number of unexplained deaths, but say they were not taken seriously.
Meanwhile at NHS Tayside, whistleblowers claim managers knew about concerns being raised about Eljamel years before he was suspended. Jules Rose was the last person to be treated by Eljamel. She was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour, but Eljamel removed her tear duct instead.
He was suspended by the health board the day after her surgery.
Speaking to The Scotsman, Ms Rose said: “There are parallels in this and in rejecting the whistleblowers coming forward about Lucy Letby, because exactly the same has happened in NHS Tayside. Every patient was vulnerable and at the mercy of the health board.
“We should be able to trust our health professionals, but look where it has got us. We have had whistleblowers coming forward to speak after working with Eljamel who all knew what was happening at Ninewells.”
She said this treatment of whistleblowers was a “hidden pandemic” that exists throughout the NHS.
Ms Rose said she wants other whistleblowers to come forward to help keep their campaign for a public inquiry in the public eye. Eljamel was placed under investigation and under supervision by NHS Tayside, but was allowed to continue operating on patients at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Eljamel removed himself from the General Medical Council’s register and is now thought to be working in Libya. Last year a damning report from the Scottish Government highlighted failures in how NHS Tayside oversaw Eljamel.
So far neither health secretary Michael Matheson nor First Minister Humza Yousaf, the former health secretary, have agreed to launch a public inquiry into what happened. In April Mr Matheson said he would carry out an independent review into the scandal, but so far this has not happened.
The calls for a public inquiry hit the headlines at the start of summer when one of Eljamel’s patients heckled the First Minister during an independence convention at Dundee’s Caird Hall.
Theresa Mallett, 61, was left disabled and in constant pain after an operation by Eljamel, and brought the crowd at the convention to a standstill when she stood up and demanded a public inquiry be held.
These calls will be reiterated when the group of campaigners demonstrate outside Holyrood on Wednesday, September 6. They are planning to have a patient lying on an operating table with others dressed up in scrubs looming over them in a bid to get their message across.
Ms Rose said: “We all know what happened – he butchered us. Now we want answers as to why NHS Tayside allowed him to practise for so long.”
NHS Tayside has since apologised to Eljamel’s former patients, and said they are committed to supporting them.
They added anyone with further concerns about Eljamel should contact the health board’s patient liaison response team by emailing [email protected].
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the government said they recognise the “significant ongoing concern and distress” of his former patients.
They added: “The Scottish Government has committed to establishing an independent commission that could engage directly with former patients and deliver answers quicker than a public inquiry would.
“We will provide more detail on the scope of the commission shortly.”
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