More women 'may be victims' of Royal Cornwall Hospital surgeon
A Cornish hospital is facing a rising tide of legal action over its handling of a consultant who was allowed to continue working despite eight reviews and numerous complaints.
Obstetrician Rob Jones left the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) in May last year and in November his employers contacted thousands of former patients – eventually concluding that more than 50 suffered complications from their treatment.
A string of missed opportunities were revealed last week when the trust published five independent investigations into the consultant's practice and how he was managed.
One of the women suing the hospital is Carole Gill, whose baby daughter Maggie died shortly after her birth. In the month beforehand she had twice been sent home by Mr Jones despite suffering severe illness during her pregnancy.
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The 34-year-old teacher from Mevagissey said reading the reports produced by the RCHT had left her in a state of "complete shock".
"This was a catalogue of errors. So many investigations had been undertaken but nothing had been done and the people at the top didn't seem to know anything."
Her daughter's death in January 2010 was declared a Serious Untoward Incident by the trust.
Mr Jones voluntarily withdrew from his obstetrics practice while the matter was investigated, but was fully reinstated by the end of the following month.
It was later found that Miss Gill had been suffering from acute pancreatitis, a condition she is convinced led to her daughter's death.
At an inquest the following year, which recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, Mr Jones gave evidence, saying: "There are lessons we can learn to take forwards."
The investigation released by the RCHT last week notes that, in a meeting with the then medical director, Mr Jones had commented that there may have been an "error of judgment" in the case.
Since the reports were published, lawyers representing women who claim they were victims of his botched surgery say they have been contacted by increasing number of former patients.
Mike Bird, medical negligence expert at Truro firm Foot Anstey, has been contacted by 15 women since Thursday alone, bringing the total number he is acting for to 60.
"I suspect there will be a lot more women coming forward," he said.
Tim Goldburn, of Falmouth- based law firm Preston Goldburn, is representing six women, including Miss Gill, and has been contacted by a further 20 women to discuss their cases.
He said there were still questions to be asked: "People like Carole put their trust in Mr Jones and the hospital and both betrayed that trust."
RCHT chief executive Lezli Boswell has conceded that the hospital let patients down.
"I reiterate our apology to the women who have been affected by poor clinical practice under the care of Mr Jones.
"Our priority is to make sure we offer any support and, where clinically appropriate, any further treatment they need."
Mr Jones has issued a statement through the Medical Defence Union saying he was "sorry for any patient who suffered a complication of surgery and to any patient who has had the stress of their care being reviewed".
The South African-born consultant removed himself voluntarily from the medical register in October 2012, meaning he cannot now be disciplined by the General Medical Council, and now runs a bed and breakfast with his wife on the outskirts of Truro.