'Significant steps' made to establish inquiry into disgraced NHS surgeon

Health secretary Neil Gray has appointed chairmen to lead the public inquiry and the independent clinical reviews.

Scotland’s health secretary has announced “significant progress” towards establishing a public inquiry into the disgraced NHS surgeon Professor Sam Eljamel.

In a ministerial statement to Holyrood on Thursday, Neil Gray said he had appointed chairs to both the public inquiry and the independent clinical reviews into the former NHS Tayside doctor.

It comes after campaigners criticised the Scottish Government for a lack of progress on the inquiry, which was announced in September.

Eljamel worked in the NHS from 1995 until he was suspended in 2013 for his actions. He is currently believed to be operating in Libya.

It’s thought his victims in Scotland could total more than 170 people.

Lord Weir, a serving judge of the Supreme Courts in Scotland and former sheriff on the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court, will chair the public inquiry. A start date has yet to be set.

Professor Stephen Wigmore, regius chair of clinical surgery and head of the department of surgery at the University of Edinburgh, will chair the independent clinical reviews for patients who wish to take part. That inquiry will start in April.

Lead campaigner Jules Rose, who is thought to be the last victim of Eljamel, had her tear duct removed instead of a brain tumour in 2013 by the disgraced doctor.

Jules Rose welcomed the announcement by the Scottish Government.STV News

She described the news as a “huge step forward”.

She told STV News: “On behalf of the harmed patients, we very much welcome this announcement.

“We are pleased we have been given the assurance by the health secretary that the patients and our legal team will be given the opportunity to have input into the consultation and terms of reference for the public inquiry.

“That’s extremely imperative because we the patients are the ones that suffered the harm, we know exactly what has happened, so it’s vital we assist in any way to help with the public inquiry.”

She said while the announcement is “good news and another step forward” there remains “a lot of groundwork to do with a long road ahead”.

“We are relieved that we will be given a voice at long last,” she said.

Health secretary Neil Gray announced the update to the inquiries on Thursday.Getty Images

Speaking in parliament, Gray told MSPs: “I have met with Mr Eljamel’s former patients, including some outside Parliament last week, and understand the strength of their feelings and the importance of progressing these investigations as quickly as possible.

“Mr Eljamel’s former patients have the right to answers and we must learn from their experiences to try and ensure this does not happen again. The people of Scotland must have confidence in our National Health Service and I plan for the public inquiry and independent clinical reviews to help restore any lost trust.

“Our approach of establishing independent clinical reviews to run alongside the public inquiry will give patients the option of having a personalised review of their care – something that would not have been possible within the remit of the public inquiry.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith said: “I welcome the announcement that Lord Weir and Professor Wigmore will chair the public inquiry and independent clinical reviews, and I sincerely hope this is finally the start of getting justice for Eljamel’s former patients.

“It is essential that the public inquiry uncovers the full facts about what happened and who knew what, when. 

“Not only is there the issue about Eljamel’s extensive malpractice, but also the issue of decision-making within NHS Tayside. 

“We need to know exactly who was involved, what roles each of these individuals had and, in the final lines of responsibility and accountability, why this man was not stopped from inflicting the most appalling physical and psychological harm on his patients.”

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