Fury at disgraced doctor's defence of his role at hospital

The disgraced gynaecologist Richard Neale outraged his former patients yesterday when he insisted he still had much to offer the National Health Service.

Mr Neale was struck off by the General Medical Council for serious professional misconduct after more than 30 botched operations left women maimed, incontinent and unable to bear children. He was criticised for his rudeness and arrogance at the GMC disciplinary hearing in July 2000.

Last year, though, he was given an administrative job by South Manchester University Hospitals NHS Trust. His role, in the clinical audit department at Wythenshawe Hospital, involved checking doctors' standards of care.

Yesterday he defended his appointment, saying he must have "impressed" his new employers and that it would have been a "shame" if his skills were wasted. "I fully understand the concerns of the public," Mr Neale told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. "I have no wish to return to clinical medicine now but that does not mean that I have no contribution to make. Clinical audit is an important aspect of modern healthcare and it involves no direct contact with patients. Patients should have no fears about my activities."

Mr Neale said he was studying for a masters' degree in clinical audit, and added: "It would be an awful shame if all that was wasted."

He accepted he had harmed patients and apologised for it, saying: "I still have nightmares about it and I am sure I shall do for the rest of my days. I feel full of remorse, demoralisation and ashamed for what has happened to me."

But he rejected the GMC ruling that he was dishonest, claiming that verdict arose from questions about his CV that he had since answered. He said he had told Wythenshawe Hospital about his past before he was given the contract – which ended in April – and was grateful for being granted another chance.

But one of his victims, Sheila Wright-Hogeland, was horrified by the idea that he might return to the NHS in any capacity.

Mrs Wright-Hogeland, 49, who was unable to have children after being treated by Mr Neale, said his nightmares were nothing compared with those who suffered the botched operations.

"I find it deplorable that Richard Neale has been re- employed by the NHS and I find everything he said very egocentric," she said. "I don't detect any remorse or regret for any of the appalling injuries he inflicted on countless women."

Employing him, even in an administrative role, was nonsensical, she added.

Mrs Wright-Hogeland said Mr Neale was completely unqualified to assess the professionalism of other doctors because he was "in denial" about his own difficulties. "He seems, in fact, completely unable to recognise or acknowledge his own shortcomings."

Vanessa Bourne, of the Patients Association, said employing Mr Neale in any role would make the wrong statement to doctors. "What sort of message does it send to them that the person who is going to audit their work is someone who has been struck off for so many offences?" she asked.

The GMC found Mr Neale, 58, guilty of 35 out of 36 charges relating to his treatment of women, mostly at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.

He left the hospital in 1995 with a £100,000 pay-off and a clean reference that enabled him to work in Leicester, where he lasted only a few months, and in the Isle of Wight. Most of the charges against him related to gynaecological operations, such as hysterectomies, sterilisations and procedures to stop incontinence.

The GMC was itself criticised because it had taken no action to stop Mr Neale practising in Britain even though it had been informed by Canadian authorities that Mr Neale's licence had been revoked in 1985. The GMC had no record of two letters sent by the licensing authorities for Ontario, where a patient of Mr Neale's died in childbirth, and by the Medical Council of Canada.

The Department of Health has set up an investigation into how Mr Neale came to be appointed in Manchester.

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