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by Margaret Taylor
29 February 2024
Neil Gray announces chairs for Eljamel inquiry and reviews

Neil Gray was appointed health secretary earlier this month | Alamy

Neil Gray announces chairs for Eljamel inquiry and reviews

Health secretary Neil Gray has appointed Court of Session judge Lord Weir to lead a public inquiry into disgraced surgeon Sam Eljamel six months after First Minister Humza Yousaf promised that a probe would be launched.

An internal review conducted by NHS Tayside last year identified a catalogue of failures in the way the health board dealt with the consultant neurosurgeon, who left patients with life-altering injuries before he was eventually removed from his post in December 2013.

Following that, and following a protest outside parliament, Yousaf, who had been facing calls to launch a public inquiry for a number of months, announced in September that the inquiry would go ahead.

Last week Gray, who replaced Michael Matheson as health secretary earlier this month, spoke to protestors outside parliament who said the government’s progress in appointing an inquiry chair has been too slow.

Today, Gray announced chairs for both the inquiry and for independent clinical reviews being offered to patients affected by Eljamel’s actions.

Lord Weir, who prior to joining the Court of Session bench was a sheriff focusing on personal injury cases, will chair the inquiry while 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.

Gray is to meet with Lord Weir to agree the terms of reference for the inquiry and to begin work on establishing an inquiry team. The clinical reviews are due to begin in April.

“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,” Gray said.

“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, who led Holyrood's cross-party group into the scandal, welcomed the news, saying she “sincerely hopes 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,” she said.

“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.”

Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra, who represents the North East region, also welcomed the news but said it “should not have taken this long”, adding that “175 days have already passed since the public inquiry was announced”.

“The terms of reference are still to be agreed – when will the inquiry actually commence?,” he said.

 “Victims’ trust in NHS Tayside has been shattered by years of delay and the culture of cover-up that has, sadly, characterised the health board for many years.

“The cabinet secretary must work with the new chief executive to end the culture of secrecy at NHS Tayside and earn victims’ trust in the independent clinical review.”

Eljamel was employed by NHS Tayside from 1995 to 2014, and concerns about his practice were first raised to NHS Tayside in 2011. He was suspended in 2013 after several complaints and a review by the Royal College of Surgeons in England.

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