Two Scottish surgeons suspended

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 22 August 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:491
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    Two of the three consultant general surgeons at a Scottish hospital have been suspended from duty pending investigations into their clinical practices after concerns were raised by colleagues.

    The unrelated suspensions, which happened within three weeks of each other, have plunged Stracathro Hospital, near Brechin in Angus, into chaos, causing management to suspend emergency operations for at least three months. A surgeon from Ninewells Hospital in Dundee has been seconded to Stracathro to plug the gap.

    Mr Douglas Irving, who was suspended last month, was also the medical director for Angus NHS Trust. He is alleged to have breached guidelines agreed by surgeons in the Tayside Health Board area requiring both mammography and fine needle aspirations to be carried out before patients with breast cancer could be operated on.

    The second surgeon, Mr Peeyush Sharma, was suspended on 12 August following the death of a 66 year old patient after an emergency abdominal operation. A file on the case has been passed to the Procurator Fiscal, Scotland's prosecuting authority. Colleagues raised concerns months ago about the operating techniques of Mr Sharma, who started work at the hospital in 1997 after holding posts in Newcastle upon Tyne and Peterborough. The 41 year old surgeon qualified in Kashmir and came to Britain only four years ago.

    Before Mr Irving was suspended he was investigating the allegations, believed to centre mainly on the length of time Mr Sharma took to carry out emergency operations.

    Audits are being carried out on the work of both surgeons, who have also been suspended from their private practices. An internal audit of the records of 148 patients with breast cancer treated by Mr Irving over the past five years has resulted in a recall of 29 women for further investigation. The trust and Tayside Health Board expected to receive the results of an external audit by a breast cancer specialist from the Glasgow area this week.

    An internal audit of Mr Irving's 90 patients with colorectal cancer in the same period is still in progress. A trust spokesman said that a specialist from the west of Scotland would carry out an external audit.

    The trust has carried out a preliminary review of Mr Sharma's work, and an internal audit is under way. An external audit is due to start shortly on the records of the 400 patients he operated on since taking up his post.

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