News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

Suspended consultant is reinstated

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 22 January 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:187
  1. Clare Dyer, legal correspondent
  1. BMJ

    A consultant gynaecologist whose in vitro fertilisation unit was closed and who was suspended from her job after an embryo mix-up is to go back to work next week.

    Geeta Nargund said she was “absolutely delighted to be back in the NHS.” She has been reinstated as a consultant in reproductive medicine at St George's Healthcare NHS Trust in south London and will carry on her work in assisted conception at King's College Hospital NHS Trust.

    Mrs Nargund was medical director of the Diana Princess of Wales Centre for Reproductive Medicine at St George's until October 2002, when she was suspended on full pay and the unit was closed. The closure followed a three way mix-up in April 2002, when the embryos of one woman were implanted in another, and hers in turn were implanted in a third woman (BMJ 2003;326:12).

    The error, made by a doctor and an embryologist, happened when Mrs Nargund was away from the unit. It was discovered within 24 hours, and the embryos were flushed out. Two of the women were offered further treatment, and both became pregnant.

    Mrs Nargund launched an employment tribunal claim against the trust, seeking compensation for race and sex discrimination and victimisation as a whistleblower. She had previously warned the trust that the unit was severely underfunded and understaffed.

    The tribunal claim, which was due to be heard next month, was withdrawn as part of the settlement.

    Last July Mrs Nargund accepted a five figure libel settlement plus costs of more than £100 000 over comments made by the trust's medical director, Paul Jones, about her management of the unit (BMJ 2003;326:12). The trust had previously said that her suspension was for “non-clinical matters” unrelated to the closure of the unit.

    Stuart Campbell, retired head of obstetrics and gynaecology at St George's medical school, who set up both the King's and St George's in vitro fertilisation units, called this week for an independent inquiry into to the costs of the Nargund affair, which he estimated to be “at least £1m ($1.8m; €1.4).”

    He said: “I think the National Audit Office or whichever body is responsible for scrutinising NHS spending should do an inquiry into what all this cost. A good doctor, with no complaints against her, running a good unit, is suspended without warning, the unit closed, and the NHS fighting a legal battle costing over £1m, and for what? I think it's internal politics.

    “I regard Geeta Nargund as an outstanding doctor in terms of her care for patients and also in terms of research, her public profile and teaching, educating the public. The NHS needs good doctors like her.”

    A spokesman for St George's said: “St George's Healthcare NHS Trust is delighted to welcome Dr Nargund back as the consultant in reproductive medicine to care for its patients. The trust acknowledges Dr Nargund's skills, expertise and commitment to the National Health Service and is pleased to have her contributing to the healthcare of its local population. “

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