Article by James Gillespie Published: 30.03.2014.
The General Medical Council has been accused of allowing a disgraced surgeon who botched a string of operations to “get away with it” after he was permitted to remove his name voluntarily from the medical register.
Patients are angry that, despite being alerted to the substandard work of David Jackson in 2004, the GMC has taken a decade to resolve the case.
Jackson, 67, was dismissed from his post as a general surgeon at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust in 2007, five years after the Trust became aware of concerns over his work.
He continued to practise even though the Trust reached legal settlements with some of his patients. He had been facing 75 charges, mainly relating to 16 patients he treated for cancer or performed plastic surgery on, with some cases dating back to 1989.
For seven years Jackson avoided GMC hearings by claiming ill health and by twice seeking a judicial review at the High Court after the GMC ruled he should face a full hearing.
Last week he was allowed to take his name off the medical register after a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service panel accepted that he was “chronically ill” and could not face a hearing.
The affair angered Margaret Erskine, 74, who suffered a severe abdominal infection that almost killed her after Jackson allegedly botched a breast reconstruction operation following treatment for cancer.
“I am appalled that the GMC, after all these years have let him go free from facing theses charges and have done so in secret because he is poorly. His victims know all about being unwell” she said. “I feel that he has got away with it, free to retire, with a big house and doubtless a pension while we are left to suffer. This does not feel like any kind of justice for me or his other victims”.
Jackson worked at four Kent hospitals – the Queen Victoria Memorial in Herne Bay; the Kent and Canterbury; the Spencer Wing in Margate; and BMI the Chaucer Hospital in Canterbury.
Among his former patients was Jill Phillips, 68, a mother of eight from Whitstable, Kent, who died in September 2006 as surgeons sought to correct damage allegedly caused by Jackson during earlier surgery for bowel cancer.
Another patient was Pauline Gevaux, a breast cancer sufferer from River, near Canterbury, who says she was left disfigured after a series of operations by Jackson.
Nick Fairweather, a medical negligence solicitor in Whitstable, who is representing Erskine, said: “All our clients will be horrified by this. It is such a sorry chronology. The earliest case in the charges against him was in 1989; the Trust said concerns were raised in 2002. He wasn’t sacked until 2007; then it has taken seven years for the GMC to do nothing very much and let him wander off without these serious allegations ever being properly tried and tested in an open court. That is absolutely appalling”.
He added: “I feel that the GMC is not fit for purpose and beyond its sell-by date”.
Since 2002, East Kent Hospitals has paid out £651,000 in damages to Jackson’s patients.
Niall Dickson, the GMC’s Chief Executive, said: “Dr Jackson has been suspended since 2007 and [this] decision…means he will not be able to practise medicine in this country again. We welcome that. However, all of us should reflect on the fact that this case has taken far too long to resolve. The delay has added to the distress of the patients affected and to their families. I am very sorry about that”.
A barn at Jackson’s home near Canterbury is now a wedding venue. A brochure for Winters Barns describes how he turned it into a “stunning wedding venue” after his “retirement”.
Both Jackson and his solicitor at the Medical Defence Union declined to comment.
Reproduced with the kind permission of the Sunday Times.