HC Deb 07 July 1981 vol 8 cc246-7
2. Mr. Joseph Dean

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if, following the settlement for negligence by the Leeds area health authority in the case of Mrs. Joan Lee, he will set up a further inquiry into the neurosurgical department at Chapel-Allerton hospital, Leeds, to consider whether it is now providing a satisfactory standard of care.

The Minister for Health (Dr. Gerard Vaughan)

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's deep concern about this subject. He knows that the Leeds health authority has already conducted two full inquiries into this unhappy case and has made many changes and improvements in neurosurgical services. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that a third inquiry is not necessary.

Mr. Dean

I disagree with the Minister on his last assumption. What was the total financial cost of the settlement, including court costs? Will that money have to come from the area health allocation, thereby diminishing the standard of service in the area? Does the Minister think that the person or persons responsible for that negligence should remain in employment under contract to the National Health Service after the death of that woman?

Dr. Vaughan

The employment of the individual concerned is at this stage a matter for the local health authority. The sums involved are personal matters that involve the families. I think that it would be better if I discussed this issue with the hon. Gentleman directly. I shall be pleased to do so. As for the provision of general services, there has been a reallocation and rearrangement of the neurosurgical beds in the area. A fourth consultant neurosurgeon has been appointed and there is the possibility that a fifth will be appointed. There is every reason to expect that the services have been greatly improved.

Mr. Torney

Is the Minister aware that the death of one of my constituents, Mrs. Joan Lee, was undoubtedly caused by the neglect of this consultant surgeon? After he had instructed junior doctors to open her head prior to performing the operation himself, he was nowhere to be found and, in fact, was not in the hospital. May I urge the Minister to ensure that the consultant surgeon is no longer allowed to perform operations for the National Health Service and so cause further deaths?

Dr. Vaughan

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the consultant concerned denies any negligence. At this stage the matter is one for the local health authority. In view of the deliberations of the Select Committee, and in an endeavour to improve the complaints procedure, we issued a memorandum in April that set out a different way of dealing with clinical complaints. The new method will come into operation in September.