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Tuesday, November 17, 1998 Published at 01:42 GMT


Women reveal torment at hands of blunder doctor

Rodney Ledward was struck off for serious professional misconduct

A public meeting has heard how a gynaecologist caused misery and pain for scores of women before being struck off by the General Medical Council.

Dozens of women are considering taking legal action against Rodney Ledward, who styled himself as "the fastest gynaecologist in the South-East".

More than 170 women rang a helpline at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent following publicity about Rodney Ledward, who removed a woman's ovaries without her permission.

About 100 of the women feared they had been injured in operations conducted by Mr Ledward, who has been banned by the GMC from operating.

[ image: The William Harvey hospital has received 179 calls about Mr Ledward]
The William Harvey hospital has received 179 calls about Mr Ledward
At least 35 are now considering suing Mr Ledward and there is growing support for a public inquiry.

Mr Ledward, who has 33 years' medical experience and had been working at the hospital since 1980, was suspended from South Kent Hospitals NHS Trust in January 1996 after allegedly puncturing a patient's bladder.

He was sacked 11 months later after an internal inquiry and was denied compensation or a right of appeal.

The case took two years to come before the GMC.

It examined a range of allegations against Mr Ledward, who is believed to be working in the Middle East.

They covered his work at the William Harvey Hospital and St Saviour's Bupa hospital in nearby Hythe between 1989 and 1996.

Ovary removal

The GMC found there was evidence to support a range of charges, including failure to carry out proper pre-operative care and to delegate difficult and serious operations to junior doctors.

The woman whose ovaries were removed has already received an out-of-court settlement.

She said that a month before the operation to remove her ovaries she was told they were "perfectly healthy".

She had not agreed to their removal.

The operation was performed so badly that two litres of blood had to be removed from her stomach and abdomen, the GMC was told.

The woman said she remembered regaining consciousness in the middle of the operation to find a doctor pumping blood from her stomach.

After returning home she discovered her urethra had been damaged during the operation.

Very well hidden

Dr Noel Padley: 'No one individual had the full picture'
Dr Noel Padley, medical director of the South Kent Hospitals Trust, which runs the William Harvey hospital, said the case had only come to light after the hospital got trust status and people working with Mr Ledward could voice their concerns directly to managers.

He said the problems had been "very well hidden" and that "no one individual had been able to get the full picture".

Dr Padley said monitoring of surgeons' performance was now in place and government moves to drive up standards would mean it was less likely another case would occur.

Public meeting

More than 100 women attended a meeting organised by the South East Kent Community Health Council on Monday evening.

Speaking at the CHC meeting, Dr Padley promised to help the women pursue complaints against Mr Ledward.

Dr Padley said he feared more women had yet to come forward and may be too traumatised to contact the trust.

He disclosed that Mr Ledward had been repeatedly disciplined for rudeness and bad timekeeping.

Women and their partners at the meeting claimed Mr Ledward had performed unnecessary operations on them, had performed procedures including hysterectomies they had not consented to, or had botched routine operations.

Grandmother Ann Dowling said she had been left incontinent after the consultant perforated her bladder during a hysterectomy.

"I put my life in his hands but when things started going wrong after the operation he just said I would have to go on a waiting list," she said.

Consultant gynaecologist Mr Malcolm Stewart has seen many of the women who have needed further treatment following operations performed by Mr Ledward.

He told the meeting: "I am appalled by what I have heard.

"There is nothing to justify or explain what has happened here. I think the whole room feels appalled and revulsed."

Dr Padley told the women: "I know it will be some consolation to you to know that there is no limit to the amount available for compensation.

"Fortunately Mr Ledward is very well insured. I know it is not a consolation that the money will not come out of his pocket."

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