Bristol heart inquiry: Trust chief was forced to retire in disgrace

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Indy Lifestyle Online

John Roylance, the former chief executive of United Bristol Healthcare Trust (UBHT), had spent more than 30 years at the city's hospitals by the time he was forced to retire in disgrace.

The least known of the three doctors who were disciplined by the General Medical Committee (GMC), Dr Roylance joined the Bristol Royal Infirmary as a consultant radiologist in 1964.

Twenty years later he became general manager of the Bristol and Weston Health Authority, where he received one of the first complaints. Dr Stephen Bolsin's letter in July 1990 expressed concern that the paediatric cardiac surgery unit had one of the worst records in the country. Dr Roylance refused to pursue the matter and not long afterwards Dr Bolsin was warned by Mr Wisheart not to take similar action again.

When the UBHT was formed in April 1991, Dr Roylance became chief executive with responsibility for the overall management of the hospitals – a post he held until he retired in October 1995. During this time he became aware of the problems in the cardiac unit but his failure to address the fact that "too many babies were dying" led to the disciplinary action by the GMC. He had denied knowledge of external complaints about the deaths and brain damage until the case of 18-month-old Joshua Loveday emerged. He said he had accepted the word of his long-time associate, Mr Wisheart, that the surgical outcomes were comparable to other centres.

During the GMC hearing, Dr Roylance said it was "manifestly absurd" to imagine he could or should have intervened in the cardiac surgery unit, but admitted he was accountable for patient safety in other regards.

In 1997, the GMC announced he was to be struck off the medical register.

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