Lady Justice statue depicting the public inquiry into Prof Sam Eljamel

Public inquiry into former NHS neurosurgeon Prof Sam Eljamel announced

The Scottish health secretary, Michael Matheson, has announced a public inquiry will be held on the conduct of former NHS Tayside neurosurgeon, Professor Sam Eljamel.

The news comes in the wake of NHS Tayside publishing its due diligence report into the matter last week.

                                                        Video credit: Scottish Parliament TV

The report was conducted by NHS Tayside’s executive medical director, Dr Pamela Johnston, and looked into the:

  • Robustness of Prof Eljamel’s appointment process
  • Mechanisms in place to identify clinical concerns
  • Concerns which were raised using said procedures
  • Actions taken in relation to the supervision arrangements which had been placed on Prof Eljamel between 21 June 2013 and 10 December 2013

Dr Johnston concluded that the recruitment process followed the correct procedures; he had verified qualifications and excellent references.

But, even though there were multiple systems in place to raise the alarm, some were in their infancy while others relied on doctors self-reporting clinical outcomes.

The first major investigation into Prof Eljamel was triggered by a complaint in late December 2012, with the report concluding the following May.

This led to an external review from the Royal College of Surgeons in June 2013, which saw Prof Eljamel being put under indirect clinical supervision.

This meant there was not another surgeon directly supervising Prof Eljamel in the operating theatre – a decision deemed “inadequate”.

In the time between being put under indirect supervision and the conclusion of the Royal College of Surgeon’s report which led to his suspension on 10 December 2013, Prof Eljamel operated on 111 patients.

Because of the lack of thorough oversight, these patients were potentially exposed to possible harm, according to the report’s findings.

Speaking last week, Dr Johnston, said: “The Scottish Government review, which reported in 2022, looked at the concerns of some patients of Professor Eljamel and gave recommendations to NHS Tayside which included taking further action to investigate areas of ongoing concern of patients and the decision-making around the practical arrangements for the supervision of Professor Eljamel in 2013.

“Today’s report is the conclusion of that further action, but we recognise that many former patients remain understandably very upset and unhappy with what has happened.

“NHS Tayside apologises to former patients of the surgeon and remains committed to do whatever is required to support the independent commission which is being set up by Scottish Government to respond to patients’ ongoing concerns.”

The Scottish health secretary said that the findings from this report indicate the need for a full public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.

Matheson said: “A full public inquiry will not necessarily answer the individual clinical questions of each former patient about their own particular circumstances.”

He continued: “For that reason I do still consider that an individual clinical review of patients’ individual cases, where that is what individual patients want, remains necessary.”

The Scottish Government has said further details of the public inquiry and how former patients can arrange individual reviews will be announced in due course.

Image credit: iStock

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