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NHS Tayside failures in Sam Eljamel scandal revealed

Sam Eljamel is now practising in Libya

NHS Tayside failures in Sam Eljamel scandal revealed

A catalogue of failures in NHS Tayside's response to a disgraced surgeon Sam Eljamel is revealed in an internal review.

The consultant neurosurgeon left patients with life-altering injuries before he was eventually removed from his post in December 2013.

In one case, he removed a woman's tear gland instead of a tumour.

Eljamel worked for NHS Tayside for 18 years, becoming the head of the neurosurgery department at Dundee's Ninewells Hospital. Former patients are calling for accountability after the medic quit Scotland for Libya.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has faced calls for a public enquiry. Now Scottish Labour has called for the entire NHS Tayside board to be removed as a review by the health board reveals how decision-making in his case was not handled at a high enough level once leaders realised he was to blame for patient problems.

Restrictions placed on him were "not adequate and not proportionate to the concerns being raised at the time and, once implemented, [were] not monitored effectively".

The review details how Eljamel was subject to light-touch "indirect" supervision before being removed from his post. 

Bosses at NHS Tayside failed to recognise major issues with his performance and, after being put under supervision, he carried out more than 100 operations during a six-month period.

MSPs from Scotland's three largest opposition parties - the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - have renewed calls for a full independent enquiry.

Scottish Labour is calling for the resignation of the NHS Tayside leadership "with immediate effect".

Depute leader Jackie Baillie MSP said: "Those who failed to end this scandal must be held to account. We need a full public inquiry and we need government ministers to come before the Scottish Parliament immediately and explain what they knew about this scandal and when."

The report found senior managers missed opportunities to intervene and protect patients, despite complaints.

Patients operated on by Eljamel during his supervision period will receive a letter of apology from the health board.

The review found that supervision was "not proportionate to the concerns being raised".

Some documentation from the time of his employment has been destroyed in line with data protection practices.

The review said: "An advanced process for professional governance, from raising concerns to acting on these and ensuring clear documentation of decisions made was not present during the time of Professor Eljamel’s employment. This has been addressed by NHS Tayside and there is now an established process in place."

NHS Tayside executive medical director Dr Pamela Johnston said: "I have written to the patients who had their operation between 21 June 2013 and 10 December 2013 to inform them about the findings of the review and to sincerely apologise on behalf of the board.

"We are offering support to them in a number of ways and there is a dedicated team to help them with any questions and concerns they may have going forward.

"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.

"Over the past few months, we have been encouraging any former patients who have concerns to get in touch with our dedicated Patient Liaison Response Team at TAY.patientliaisonresponse@nhs.scot and we continue to ask anyone with concerns to please get in touch."

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