Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Wednesday, March 17, 1999 Published at 17:04 GMT


Health

Inquiry ordered into botched operations

Frank Dobson has ordered an independent inquiry

Health Secretary Frank Dobson has announced an independent inquiry into a hospital's failure to pick up on the poor clinical performance of a Kent gynaecologist.

But patients' representatives are angry that it will not be public and will not address issues related to the doctor's private work.

Rodney Ledward was banned from practising last September after a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing found him guilty of serious professional misconduct linked to botched operations.

One woman had her ovaries removed without her consent and another suffered a ruptured bladder.

Mr Ledward was a consultant gynaecologist at the South Kent Hospitals NHS Trust from 1980 until he was sacked in December 1996.


[ image: Rodney Ledward was struck off in September]
Rodney Ledward was struck off in September
Following the GMC hearing, more than 400 women have contacted the South East Community Health Council and the numbers are continuing to rise.

In the last three weeks, at least two more women have come forward.

In November, Mr Dobson asked the trust to conduct an internal review of the circumstances leading to Mr Ledward's dismissal and has now decided to opt for an independent inquiry.

He said: "This independent inquiry will ensure that shortcomings are identified, lessons are learned, and are seen to be learned.

"It is vital that the public have full confidence in the NHS' commitment to clinical quality, and know that steps are being taken now to ensure that it is of the highest possible standard."

The inquiry will examine:

  • Why serious failures in Mr Ledward's clinical practice in his NHS operations were not identified or acted upon earlier and to consider the action taken when those failures came to light
  • The role of management and staff at the trust and external bodies concerned with the quality of patient care
  • The care of NHS patients treated by Mr Ledward between 1990 and 1996, but including earlier events "where appropriate".

It will also make recommendations for the NHS arising from the case, particularly concerning clinical governance.

The inquiry, to be headed by Jean Ritchie QC, will be conducted in private and will report directly to Mr Dobson.

Its findings will be made public.

'Disappointed'

The South Kent Hospitals NHS Trust welcomed the inquiry and said it would participate fully.

But Paul Watkins, chairman of the South East Kent Community Health Council (CHC), said he was "disappointed" at the decision not to hold a public inquiry and to limit it to looking solely at Mr Ledward's NHS operations.

The council, which is representing many of Mr Ledward's former patients, had been calling for a full public inquiry.

Mr Watkins said the problems in the private sector appeared to have been worse than those in the NHS.

For example, private patients' medical records had been lost so there was no way of identifying which operations Mr Ledward carried out.

"Some women do not know what happened to them," said Mr Watkins.

Private patients' records are the responsibility of consultants, whereas NHS records are kept centrally.

Mr Watkins said over 200 private patients had attended CHC meetings.

Some had been transferred to the NHS after developing complications following private surgery by Mr Ledward.

Many needed counselling.

Accountability

Mr Watkins said the inquiry needed to address the problems of accountability and lack of clinical governance in the private sector, which he said was more worrying than in the NHS.

And he called for an independent arbitration system to be set up to deal with private patients' complaints.

The CHC has given evidence to the health select committee which is currently looking into the regulation of the independent healthcare sector.

The government is rumoured to be considering legislation in the next session of Parliament to bring private hospitals under independent investigation.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©


Health Contents

Background Briefings
Medical notes

Relevant Stories

17 Nov 98 | Health
Government demands full report on Ledward case

17 Nov 98 | Health
Women reveal torment at hands of blunder doctor

30 Sep 98 | Health
Gynaecologist banned





Internet Links


South Kent Hospitals NHS Trust

Department of Health


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Disability in depth

Spotlight: Bristol inquiry

Antibiotics: A fading wonder

Mental health: An overview

Alternative medicine: A growth industry

The meningitis files

Long-term care: A special report

Aids up close

From cradle to grave

NHS reforms: A guide

NHS Performance 1999

From Special Report
NHS in crisis: Special report

British Medical Association conference '99

Royal College of Nursing conference '99