I Think That We’ve Been Here Before

The story of Ian Paterson, the surgeon from the midlands who has just faced a criminal trial for carrying out unnecessary operations – including full mastectomies – on women who did not have cancer, has exercised the UK press over the past few days. Much has been made of Paterson’s alleged ‘God complex’, his ‘charisma’ and the sheer scale of his malpractice – many millions have already been paid out in compensation and it is admitted that many more claims are expected. It is assumed that Paterson will be jailed when sentence is passed. Paterson mutilated women – as well as a few men – whilst working both within the NHS and in private practice with Spire Hospitals. We have now been assured that everyone is ever so sorry, that procedures have been ‘tightened up’ and that this can never happen again. Just as we were reassured after Rodney Ledward, Richard Neale, the Alder Hey Scandal, The Bristol Heart Scandal, Mid-Staffs and dear old Harold Shipman of course and many more. It won’t happen again because it was all a long time ago. Well Ian Paterson wasn’t a long time ago – he butchered people on a regular basis until relatively recently and of course the only reason why there is a bit of distance between this trial and his last bit of fun in an operating theatre is that this trial has been delayed, Paterson having produced medical evidence that he was unfit to stand trial. (Top Doctors have a habit of doing this when they’re in really deep shit – everybody else is dragged before the court even if they’re in the most dreadful state but if a Top Doctor senses a prison sentence looming and feels a tad anxious at such an eventuality, evidence will be produced that he/she is a complete wreck and cannot possibly stand trial. There is a lady in Harley Street, one Adrianne Reveley, who has assisted Top Doctors with such medical reports in the past – Adrianne will be featuring on this blog in the future.) Prof Ian Kennedy has produced a report in the wake of the expose of Paterson’s wrongdoing and has been busily giving his opinion in the media, stating that regulation in the private sector needs to be tighter. Ian Kennedy knows as well as I do that regulation in both the NHS and private sector is so lax that it might as well not exist, thanks to the GMC who have been found to consistently ignore complaints about dangerous doctors. But then Ian Kennedy has been a member of the GMC himself, so he’ll know how useless they are – however I do not know if Kennedy was a member of the GMC when they forged a letter from me in order to conceal the enormous problem that was Dr Tony Roberts at the Hergest Unit…

There are a number of features of the Paterson case that have not been explored as fully in the media as they should have been. It has been mentioned that he was dismissed from a previous post in 1996. Which post was that? Why was he dismissed? How did he land another job and who wrote his references? As ever, there were concerns about him among colleagues but these concerns were not acted upon. It was stated that he was ‘powerful’ and ‘charismatic’. He was only powerful because everybody colluded with him – had just one person had the guts to blow the whistle he would have been in prison years ago. Neither does a doctor have to be ‘charismatic’ to be allowed to spend a career harming patients – Gwynne Williams the lobotomist and Dafydd Alun Jones were both revolting specimens and just about everyone who encountered them noticed this. Charisma doesn’t enter into the equation but corruption does. I note that Paterson was practicing in Birmingham – there have been problems in the NHS in Birmingham but they have not led to the publicity that one would expect. Might that be anything to do with the fact that one Professor Robert Bluglass was a very influential figure in Birmingham and for a long time Chaired one of the Trusts there? Bluglass mysteriously requested that his name be removed from the medical register some years ago so he now spends his time as a Director of Compton Verney, one of the finest art galleries in Europe, and singing in a rather elite choir, where presumably no-one knows how dirty his hands are. But his wife Kerry Bluglass is still very much in action in medicine….

Ian Kennedy has shown great concern that Paterson injured patients in Spire hospitals (he injured very many more NHS patients but presumably they don’t matter quite so much). Should we be surprised by this? This blog has previously described how psychiatrists involved in the most appalling practices at St George’s Hospital Medical School and Springfield Hospital found their way into the Priory Group. The dishonest Robert Kehoe is Medical Director of Cygnet Healthcare. And the serial sexual harassing gynaecologist whom St Georges waved a fond farewell to many years ago is now employed at Cardiff Spire Hospital and a few years ago picked up an award from Dr Brian Gibbons who was at the time Health Minister. Dafydd himself constantly failed to turn up for his NHS clinics because he was busy at various private clinics elsewhere. And the appalling Raj Sambhi can now be encountered at the Spire Hospital in Wrexham if anyone is daft enough to part with good money to consult an obnoxious git like him.

It was an interest in Spire in Wrexham that led me to some interesting discoveries some four years ago. I discovered through friends that people in north Wales in need of joint work and other orthopaedic interventions were being put on very long waiting lists – but were told that they could be treated very much more quickly if they went private at the Spire in Wrexham. I compared the names of the surgeons involved – yes, they were the same people working at both Wrexham Maelor and the Spire. Which is of course why the Spire is just around the corner from Wrexham Maelor – it’s so the Top Doctors can come straight out of the Maelor, into their Porches and nip off down to the Spire to see the patients that they had put on the excessively long waiting list. If I remember rightly, it was the NHS secretaries at the Maelor who were handling the private bookings as well – and they won’t have been receiving a penny more, it will all be done in NHS time and on an NHS salary. (But the midwives at St George’s used to tell me how difficult it was looking after Prof Chamberlain’s private patients when they were on the delivery suite – the patients didn’t understand that the midwife looking after them was actually an NHS midwife who had six other NHS patients to look after as well and the midwife didn’t get paid anything extra for looking after a private patient. The only person who gets the extra dosh is the doctor, although to be fair to the likes of Geoffrey Chamberlain who hold academic posts as well there is a limit on how much they are allowed to earn through private work and I was always told that Chamberlain invested a lot of the money that he earned privately back into the hospital. But an unscrupulous old bastard like Dafydd Alun Jones won’t have been doing that and I bet the Maelor doctors aren’t.)

At the same time as uncovering this scam, I noticed that the Daily Post was choc full of articles regarding the sins of Mary Burrows (the first CEO of the Betsi) and Edwina Hart, the then Health Minister. A lot of these articles contained lies. I was well aware that  those we know and love had orchestrated a campaign to bring down Mary because they were boasting about it – and it was clear that the BMA absolutely loathed Edwina and were desperate to see her removed from her post. I began corresponding with Alison Gow, the then editor of the Daily Post, regarding the lies that were being published. I then noticed that as well as lies about Mary and Edwina, the Post was running ‘healthcare features’ concerning the wonders of Spire Hospitals – yet it wasn’t made clear that Spire were part of the private sector. These ‘features’ were effectively free plugs for Spire. I challenged Alison Gow about this and she fessed up that Trinity Mirror (the owners of the Daily Post) had a ‘commercial arrangement’ with Spire, but she refused to tell me how much dosh the Spire had actually handed over to Trinity Mirror. ‘Features’ involving Spire and its wonders had also appeared in the Western Mail, also owned by Trinity Mirror. Trinity Mirror were in very great financial difficulty at the time (and probably still are, like much of the print media). Now one thing that everyone knew about Edwina Hart because she was completely upfront about it was that she was ideologically opposed to private medicine and repeatedly maintained that she would do everything possible to prevent it flourishing in Wales. I rather suspect that was why the BMA had such a problem with her – the scams would have to stop if Edwina got her way. Another person who regularly appeared in the Welsh media at the time spitting venom at Edwina, Mary and the Welsh Government generally was one Dr Eamonn Jessup, a GP from north east Wales. Eamonn was Chair of the North Wales Local Practice Committee. Eamonn constantly represented himself as a caring GP whose only concern was for his patients who were going to suffer so badly under the wicked Edwina’s regime. But Eamonn was also a man keen on self-publicity and he was very active on Facebook, promoting numerous campaigns on there. One of those campaigns was ‘higher pay for doctors’ no less. So Eamonn, being one of the most highly paid people in the region, wanted even more. Eamonn Jessup’s surgery was one of those that recently handed back it’s contract and I presumed that he has retired. His pension will be higher than the wage of a lot of people in north Wales.

So Edwina didn’t give out awards to sexually harassing gynaecologists and she wouldn’t stuff the Top Doctors mouths with even more gold (although there’s so much gold already in there that one would not have thought it possible to cram in any more ingots) and she ordered Martin Jones to investigate complaints made about the North West Wales NHS Trust. No wonder the BMA were desperate to get rid of her. Which they did. And look at the bloody mess. By the way, a friend of mine currently needs orthopaedic work doing on his shoulder. He was told by the Betsi that the waiting list is some months long but that he could book in for private care regarding various aspects of the diagnostic and treatment process and everything would progress much more quickly. Like Edwina he is ideologically opposed to private medicine and found it offensive that he could obtain speedier treatment if he paid. He resisted – but within a few weeks was in such pain that he coughed up. Presumably the Top Doctor who examined that shoulder knew how bad the pain would be within a few weeks. Eamonn would no doubt be delighted to hear about this event.

However, it seems that Eamonn has now spread his wings further than north Wales. He’s available for appointments in Paphos in Cyprus! Specifically at the Peyia Medical Centre. And guess who shares the clinic there with him? None other than Dr D.G.E. Wood, a star of previous posts, the man who coerced me into seeing Gwynne the lobotomist then lied and lied in order to discredit me and have me labelled as ‘dangerous’ when I complained about Gwynne! The online advert for ‘Dave’ Wood describes him as very friendly and knowledgeable – it’s forgotten to add ‘completely corrupt’ and ‘has friends that concealed a vicious paedophile ring’. One wonders if Eamonn and Dave have headed off to Cyprus because their activities are becoming well-known in north Wales or whether they’re on a sort of late middle aged doctors massive 18-30 holiday involving huge quantities of alcohol, drugs and casual sex.

 

 

 

 

Every Sperm Is Sacred – Particularly In Scotland

The Scottish Government have announced that it will agree to fund three cycles of IVF for couples having difficulty conceiving and Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s Public Health Minister, has been crowing about this and how much better and more generous the NHS in Scotland therefore is than the rest of the UK https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/mar/24/scottish-government-to-fund-three-cycles-of-ivf

In recent years there has been an open debate regarding the questionable claims made by some fertility clinics concerning the success rates of their various procedures and it is well-known that the owners of many of these clinics have become seriously rich – fertility treatment is one area of medicine in which literally millions can be raked in. There are a lot of people with fertility problems who will make very big sacrifices in order to fund fertility treatment privately or exert huge pressure on the NHS to fund such treatment and now that fertility clinics no longer refuse to treat single parents or gay couples the market is huge. This is why fertility clinics cover their walls with photos of the babies that have resulted from their ‘successes’ – and anyway they would never dare photograph their ‘failures’, it would simply be too gruesome.

The science behind fertility treatment is awesome and it’s interesting to see how fertility treatment, including IVF, has now been completely embraced by the medical establishment. Yet when Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards were carrying out the research that underpinned IVF in the 1970s they faced huge opposition with swathes of the scientific and medical establishment making it clear that they were not considered in the least bit acceptable. It took them a very long time to be recognised for their work – Patrick Steptoe died before the really big accolades were awarded, although Bob Edwards was eventually knighted and awarded a Nobel prize. Patrick Steptoe was known to have felt very sore about the way that he and Edwards had been cold-shouldered and he never forgave a lot of people. There is film-footage available of Steptoe getting very angry indeed with Robert Winston – now Lord Winston – because although Winston himself later became the UKs most well-known fertility specialist, he had actually been one of the people who had opposed Steptoe and Edwards’s early work. Edwards was actually a graduate of Bangor University (although when he studied there it was still known as University College of North Wales), but for decades the University didn’t mention him – instead it was always Roger Whittacker no less who was mentioned on the PR material as a famous old boy. In the past few years however, it does seem to have dawned on Bangor that they educated a man who made scientific history and these days they do own up to having had him there as an undergrad.

After the birth of the first ‘IVF baby’ Louise Brown in 1978 however, IVF was speedily embraced by the medical establishment. By the time that I was working in London medical schools in the late 1980s, absolutely everybody in every hospital across the country wanted an IVF unit. They were always very frank about the reason why – because it would bring in money. Private clinics were run as businesses and very profitable ones at that, but NHS hospitals were all tripping over themselves to establish a unit offering IVF to private patients as well, because it was perceived to be a way of raising funds for research or to subsidise IVF for NHS patients. There were undoubtedly some very genuine people whose plans for their IVF units were quite altruistic – the unfairness of a situation in which IVF was unavailable to people without money was a constant topic of conversation and Thatcher’s Government was extremely hostile to universities and had slashed research funding to such an extent that people were desperately trying to think up ways of compensating for the lost income. In addition, bog standard district general hospitals who had no research interests at all also wanted IVF units – to confer status upon themselves.

The enthusiasm for establishing fertility units in the late 80s/early 90s had consequences. District general hospitals like Ysbyty Gwynedd were flailing around in an area of medicine in which they had absolutely no expertise and very often just did not know what they were doing. The success rates were very, very low indeed. Furthermore, some business people with ‘a doctor in the family’ then hit upon the idea of establishing a fertility clinic. And because success rates were unimpressive even in the best clinics and the patients were desperate people made vulnerable by their longing for a baby and rarely had any knowledge of the science underpinning fertility treatment, those patients were ripe for exploitation by unscrupulous practitioners – and of course the medical establishment being what it was and still is, no-one reigned those practitioners in, although there was widespread concern about a lot of what was going on. As ever in medicine, there was just a very effective grapevine that warned people away from working with certain people and certain clinics, just as a grapevine is still in operation warning psychiatrists not to take a job in north Wales.

I soon discovered the grim underbelly of fertility treatment when I was working in London. I had a number of contacts and friends who were employed in the field and I heard some very odd accounts at first-hand. I knew someone who was a very good embryologist and who had been in on IVF from quite early on. She personally knew a lot of the people who owned and directed those clinics – she memorably observed that although she loved embryology she was concerned that so many of the people involved in running these clinics were ‘megalomaniacs’. At the time there were people like Professor Ian Craft whose practices were being openly questioned and treated with suspicion – Ian Craft was controversial because he practised selective foetal reduction ie. he would implant as many as nine or ten embryos in the uterus, knowing that if more than one or two survived he would have to abort the others. Although Ian Craft was openly treated with hostility by many people and regularly hit the headlines, there was an awful lot of bad behaviour going on behind the scenes that was less florid and never received publicity.

One clinic that was the centre of many extraordinary anecdotes was run by a Dr Bridget Mason. I was told by my embryologist contact that Mason’s family had actually made their money out of a laundry business, but because Bridget Mason was a gynaecologist, the family had then invested in a fertility clinic. The clinic run by Mason was not part of a hospital or research unit, it was simply a private clinic offering fertility treatment. It was a clinic that everybody was warned to stay away from if they were looking for a job. There seemed to be a number of staff who had worked there and left, having been paid appallingly. It was alleged that the clinic spared no expense in providing front of house facilities such as sumptuous waiting rooms with copies of Vogue strewn about to dupe the patients into believing that this was a quality establishment, but would not invest in scientific and technical staff to do the basics behind the scenes. This clinic was notorious because it was alleged that they were skimping on the staff to such an extent that there was no-one to carry the sperm samples between the lab where the sperm counts were being carried out and the rest of the clinic, which was housed in a building several stories high. I was told that the procedure was to actually throw the sperm samples out of one of the upstairs windows into the courtyard below, where the sample would then be picked up and taken inside. This clinic had become well-known across London for it’s flying sperm. I suppose it could be argued that as long as the sperm samples flew to the correct location and were duly collected, patients would not be harmed by sperm being thrown out of windows. There were further allegations about this clinic though. One was that their labs were in such chaos that staff feared that mix-ups in the samples were happening constantly and it was only a matter of time before this would be discovered by someone giving birth to a baby that they knew could not possibly be from the allotted sperm sample eg. a baby of a different race. Another allegation about the same clinic came from a middle-eastern gynaecologist that I knew who also maintained that questionable things were going on there. She had been told by a couple who had been treated there that the husband of the couple had been given – and had of course paid a handsome price for – a general anaesthetic, because ‘this increases the sperm count’. No-one had ever come across any evidence that this was indeed so, but as the middle-eastern doctor told me ‘they think that the patients are the stupidest dummies and tell them anything’. When I first heard tales of this sort of thing I presumed that there was a gulf between the practises of the clinics run by the likes of the Masons and those with sound scientific reputations. So imagine my surprise when I heard a while later that the Mason’s establishment was going into partnership with one of the most prestigious clinics in the UK – if I remember rightly it was Bourne Hall. I took the opportunity to google Bridget Mason the other day – the clinic, the Hallam Clinic looks as though it is still in operation, but there is no mention of Bridget. She probably took the money and ran long ago.

The flying sperm and administration of general anaesthetics to work their magic on spermatogenesis were not the most florid tales that I heard. I knew one person who had worked at a clinic in I think Birmingham, for a man called Dr Jack Glatt. This person had left Jack Glatt’s employment on the grounds that he really was deeply unpleasant. They had witnessed a scene in which Jack Glatt’s examination of a female patient had been so disrespectful and offensive that the patient’s husband had punched him. No charges were ever brought because Jack Glatt could not have afforded the scrutiny. Jack Glatt and Ian Craft both featured in an ITV expose by Roger Cook in 1991 in which it was alleged that a patient had died at the hands of Jack Glatt.

But what of the more prestigious institutions, the medical schools that offered fertility treatment? They were not above telling porkies to the patients either. When I worked at St George’s Hospital Medical School in the Obs and Gynae dept (please see blog posts ‘St George’s Hospital Medical School 1989/90’ and ‘Some Very Eminent Psychiatrists From London’ for full details of the insanity and malpractice that pervaded St George’s), the minor porkie that was being told to fertility patients regarded the qualifications and status of the nurse who carried out the sperm inseminations on the female patients. This woman was given the title ‘Sister’, although she was actually a retired SEN – she had never even achieved registered nurse status, let alone reached the dizzy heights of ‘Sister’. She was difficult and rude and was the centre of much discord and complaint. I wondered why the dept employed somebody this inappropriate in such a sensitive position until one day I heard it from the horse’s mouth – the registrar who was responsible for the fertility treatment let on that this ‘Sister’ was happy to perform the role free of charge because she wanted an active retirement. After I left St George’s, a major scandal happened in that dept which involved one of the consultants being struck off for research fraud – he had published a paper in which he had claimed to have successfully treated an ectopic pregnancy, by transferring the embryo from the Fallopian tube into the uterus. He hadn’t actually done this and the ensuing scandal was enormous, because he had put the name of the Professor of the Dept on the paper as well, who had to stand down from his position as President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and was widely rumoured to have missed out on an expected knighthood because of it. St George’s tried to ride the scandal out and kept the dept open although it was known to be highly dysfunctional. (St George’s were eventually forced to close the dept in the wake of more grief and bad publicity.) Then another scandal hit them, involving Rashmi Varma, the consultant who oversaw the fertility treatment. She received full coverage in the dear old Daily Mail, because she was up in front of the GMC having been reported to them in the wake of allegations from an angry patient that she had pressurised this NHS patient into donating eggs for private patients. Rashmi Varma was cleared by the GMC but many years later I met up with a member of staff from St George’s who was working there when it all happened who told me that everyone was actually convinced of her guilt and she had got off very lightly. Interestingly enough, my most abiding memory of Rashmi Varma was of her treating one very pleasant junior doctor who was also from India very badly – when I enquired of a colleague what was behind this I was told that it was because she was a Varma and was therefore from a much higher caste than him. Which was particularly ironic because there were some who thought that they were being treated by a woman from an ethnic minority who was breaching barriers…

There was however one doctor working at St George’s whose presence there was far more worrying than an horrific snob alleged to be pressurising NHS patients into doing favours for the paying customers. That was a man who achieved infamy within weeks of arriving at the dept by having sex with one of the researchers – in the lab. By the time that he did this it was clear that this man was a little odd and he was becoming widely disliked for numerous reasons. Because my research involved working with placental material and umbilical cords, I spent a lot of time on the labour ward and got to know the staff down there very well. I got to know something else as well – that the man who had sex with my colleague in the lab was a serious sexual harasser of midwives and cleaners. His favourite technique was accosting the cleaning staff in the sluice room when they were alone – a lot of the cleaners were young migrant workers from the far east who were very submissive and would never ever have felt able to challenge him. He truly seemed to be the Dafydd Alun Jones of St George’s. This man’s (mis)conduct was openly discussed and on one occasion I was told that he was such a liability that he was going to be frozen out of the London scene and they’d do what they always did with bad doctors – they’d ‘send him to Wales’. And they bloody well did too – he is now a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and at one point was clinical director there. The dreadful Brian Gibbons, one of the many who ignored the slaughter in the NHS in north Wales in his capacity as Health Minister, managed to give this man an award some years ago. This man is also a Board Member of ‘Time For Medicine’, a medical technology company and has a private practice at the Spire Cardiff Hospital. He recently boasted of his achievements fundraising for ‘Mothers Of Africa’ – I note that this was a ‘sailing challenge’. It won’t have been much of a challenge for him, after all his hobby is sailing, he is a member of the Yacht Club at Cardiff Bay. He is also in hot pursuit of a pilot’s licence, so he is obviously enjoying a rather better lifestyle than the cleaners whom he spent so much time groping. I note that although this doctor is still working in obs and gynae, he does not work in fertility treatment – which is interesting because when he first turned up at St George’s he tried to pull rank on everyone by letting us all know that he had just come from Hammersmith Hospital, where he had been working with Robert Winston. What’s the betting that he left Hammersmith under a rather big cloud? But this is how medicine works. Problematic doctor? You don’t raise a concern, you pass them on. So Robert Winston gave him to St George’s – who gave him to Wales. Where he has now stayed.

So despite all the boasting by the SNP of their ‘funding of three IVF cycles’ they might be spending their money on a questionable service delivered by some even more questionable people. But then NHS Scotland is not as Nicola Sturgeon would have us believe – as I found out three years ago when I spent a summer in the hands of NHS Scotland at Parkhead Hospital in Glasgow. It was of course yet another attempt to intimidate me, but putting me in abusive hospitals is not a good idea – I have this tendency to publish what I witness….