GMC finds 'botcher' surgeon guilty

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A senior consultant gynaecologist described as a "rude and incompetent botcher" was found guilty yesterday of causing damage to 12 women that left them bleeding and in agony.

A senior consultant gynaecologist described as a "rude and incompetent botcher" was found guilty yesterday of causing damage to 12 women that left them bleeding and in agony.

Richard Neale, 56, of Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, was incompetent, negligent and carried out unnecessary procedures for which he failed to obtain consent, a disciplinary panel of the General Medical Council (GMC) decided. He exposed patients to unnecessary risks, misled their GPs about complications that had arisen and fraudulently claimed qualifications that he did not have.

Even by recent standards of medical wrongdoing, the case of Mr Neale is one of the worst to have come before the GMC. He was found guilty on 35 of 36 charges. Another three charges were withdrawn.

Today, Mr Neale faces being struck off the medical register by the GMC's professional conduct committee, which will decide whether the facts found proved yesterday amount to serious professional misconduct.

During 14 years he left a trail of damaged women around the country and one of the most urgent questions raised by the case is why he was not identified and stopped earlier. The same question was raised by the case of Rodney Ledward, the Kent gynaecologist who was struck off in 1998 and about whom a public inquiry reported in May. The Neale and the Ledward cases have eerie similarities.

Mr Neale also faces a police investigation for criminal negligence and assault and could be extradited to Canada, where he worked from 1977 to 1985 when he was struck off the register following the death of a patient, Geraldine Krawchuck.

Mr Neale qualified in London in 1970 before emigrating to Canada in 1977. When he returned to Britain in 1985 he worked at the NHS Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and at several private hospitals in the area, despite his past. He left the Friarage under a cloud in 1995, with a £100,000 pay-off, and worked subsequently at a series of hospitals in the South.

Among his patients in North Yorkshire was Sheila Wright-Hogeland, who became a leading witness at the GMC hearing. Mrs Wright-Hogeland, 52, spent six years under the care of Mr Neale for endometriosis, a condition in which the lining of the womb becomes inflamed. Mr Neale was rude and abusive, telling her at one point to "grin and bear" the pain which was by then excruciating. He so neglected her condition that eventually, he was forced to perform an emergency hysterectomy.

Mrs Wright-Hogeland later established a support group for injured patients of Mr Neale which was instrumental in bringing the case against him. She said yesterday: "This is the right verdict but it has come 14 years too late. It is totally unaccceptable that a doctor who had been struck off in Canada could come over here and find employment for 14 years in this country until action was taken against him, not by the people who should have done so [the GMC], but by the patients they are supposed to protect."

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