4th May 2023: 0600BST – Response to Scottish Health Secretary, Michael Matheson.

The Patients’ Action Group seeking a Public Inquiry into the actions of NHS Tayside and their surgeon, Sam Eljamel, wishes to publicly respond to Michael Matheson, the current Scottish Health Secretary.

In the coverage of Mr Matheson from STV News on 20th April, he stated:

“[There are] unanswered questions that many patients still have, and the reality is a public inquiry will not provide them with the answers that we’re looking for. Additionally, a public inquiry could take many years to even actually look at the issues in great detail. So what I want to do is to look at how we can help to get answers to those questions that patients want to understand what happened in their individual case.” – Michael Matheson, Scottish Health Secretary.[1]

Additionally, on the same day BBC News reported him stating:

“I want to put someone in place who would act independently of the health board that will engage directly with those patients who want their individual cases to be investigated, to look at exactly what happened in their individual cases to try to answer the questions they may have as well, but also to provide them with the information about what has changed since that particular episode happened within the health board. I want to create a process that they think they can trust, that is independent of the health board, independent of government, that gives them answers to their unanswered questions.” – Michael Matheson, Scottish Health Secretary.[2]

The Patients’ Action Group responds as follows:

We strongly reject Mr Matheson’s offer to an independent per-case review, a one-to-one investigation into each patient, for the following reasons:

    • So-called ‘independent’ reports that have been attempted in the past have failed to be truly independent, why would this per-case independent review offer be any different?
      • The report by NHS Lothian director is obviously not independent of the health service and has never been publicly available; the review by the Royal College of Surgeons was only about the surgeon’s activities and not their surrounding clinical governance that allowed these practices and public copy is heavily redacted; the report into two patients’ (Jules Rose and Pat Kelly) cases is not public and has serious questions around independent nature of the reporter and many questions were left unanswered.
    • An ‘independent’ per-case review would, by its very nature, make it more difficult to learn lessons in aggregate from spotting group wide patterns.
    • An ‘independent’ per-case review will also find it difficult to investigate where patients have subsequently died, and their families are still seeking answers.
    • An ‘independent’ per-case review will also find it difficult to investigate patients who, having requested their medical records, have discovered that these are either not available in their entirety or only partially available.
    • An ‘independent’ per-case review would focus only on the individual patients without considering the wider concern faced by public health. We maintain that this is not just about the surgeon, but about the team around them and the failures in clinical governance and practices of NHS Tayside – which allowed a surgeon like this to continue for 18 years; it’s about how the NHS Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) organisation, and it’s previous parent organisations, failed to provide effective oversight on the happenings at NHS Tayside; it’s about why the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and the HIS are still in dispute about who was, and is, responsible for what (e.g. patient safety); it’s about why the General Medical Council (GMC) allowed the surgeon to register without investigating his claimed certificates and then allowed him to relinquish his licence without consequence; and finally it’s about why the Scottish Government also failed to provide effective management, oversight, and direction of many of these bodies sub-ordinate to their reach. This needs public investigation and the public needs to be confident that they will have appropriate and safe healthcare, and to be treated with respect – which, in all cases, has been lost.

We are also aware that some patients’ MSPs have recently claimed that their constituents would find a Public Inquiry to be “too traumatic”. This is not the case. Some of those MSP’s patients have advised us that they have re-iterated to their MSPs that they are in full support of seeking the Public Inquiry. These patients have suffered and continue to suffer ongoing trauma due to the level of failures to date in their healthcare, in addition, the lack of support from the various organisations including the Scottish Government prevent these patients & their families from obtaining the answers they need. A Public Inquiry would ensure that happens and give them a way forward.

We maintain that only a full Public Inquiry will satisfy all parties.

    1. Help patients injured by what’s happened to get the help they need.
    2. Help healthcare professionals’ reputations to be reinstated, having been tarnished by their proximity to the events.
    3. Help the management structures and board of NHS Tayside to understand clinical governance failures, and publicly demonstrate actions they are taking, or have taken, to address the problems found.
    4. Help every other organisation (HIS, HSE, GMC, RCS, Scottish Government, etc) involved to rebuild trust in the public eye by publicly demonstrating how they will improve, or have improved, their practices to avoid it happening again.
    5. Help reinstall a level of integrity in our failing NHS, and the organisations surrounding them, through a public demonstration of honesty and transparency.

The public and patients deserve a Public Inquiry. Time and time again in recent media coverage, there are very public examples of failures in the system that should have been avoided or, at the very least, oversight should have stopped them early before greater impact. Whether it’s about this neurosurgeon Sam Eljamel; or the jailed fake psychiatrist Zholia Alemi (also on NHS Tayside books); or neurosurgeon Christopher Lim[3] ex-colleague of Eljamel and NHS Tayside, now involved in spinal surgery legal case; or the equally long running investigation into neurologist Michael Watt where a review of cases turned into a full Public Inquiry[4]; or indeed the Infected Blood Public Inquiry in which NHS Tayside (and others) are involved which was able to get help for patients without having to wait “many years” for a Public Inquiry final report.

Further, there is an outstanding Police Scotland investigation into Eljamel – which has been extremely delayed since September 2018, to which we have recently made a formal complaint about the delay.

So, we stand firm and demand that Michael Matheson makes the right decision that this needs a fully independent statutory Public Inquiry – this isn’t just about getting help for our patients, it’s about the wider perception that the Scottish Government (ultimately) is failing to provide safe healthcare to the people of Scotland.

We continue to feel that the only route left…

    • to achieve transparent, unbiased, and honest answers.
    • to have essential learning and enact real change.
    • to hold to account those responsible.
    • to help and support those patients living with what happened.
    • to rebuild public trust in our healthcare organisations, to care for them, even now.

…is by having a thorough and independent Public Inquiry.

We must get to the truth as soon as possible,
to safeguard all patients who rely on healthcare in Scotland.

We are demanding a Public Inquiry NOW!!  We will not give up.

[1] STV News (no longer available on STV Player) : https://www.eljamelinquiry.org.uk/media-archive/stv-news-at-six-2023-04-20-coverage-of-msps-meeting-with-michael-matheson-the-new-scottish-health-secretary/

[2] BBC News : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-65339744

[3] Christopher Lim and HSE sued: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/courtandcrime/arid-40978778.html

[4] Michael Watt, Independent Neurological Inquiry: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-63784995


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