An urgent review of the way hospital staff are checked for infections was under way last night after an elderly man died and another patient was left seriously ill with hepatitis B contracted from a leading surgeon.

Up to 350 other patients were at "theoretical" risk as the Fife Health Board set up an emergency helpline and began contacting those who had undergone surgery performed by Riaz Mohammed at Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, Fife.

Alex Cant, 79, from Dunfermline, contracted the liver infection and died in February after he was admitted to hospital for a routine gall bladder operation. However his condition was not linked to the surgeon until June when a second patient of Mr Mohammed was found to have the disease.

Dr Charles Saunders, acting director of public health for the Fife Health Board, said it was first alerted to the tragedy when its surveillance system noted that a patient who had caught hepatitis B, and died, had been in the hospital during the disease's incubation period.

Because of the possibility that it could have been picked up in hospital, the board identified all staff who had been involved with him to check they had been immunised properly. They found nothing to indicate any staff had the disease, but in June they discovered a second patient had contracted it. Dr Saunders said officials then went back and looked for staff who had been involved with both patients, and further tests identified the disease in Mr Mohammed.

"We regret very much that, despite the best efforts of everyone involved, a patient has lost his life," Dr Saunders said.

Mr Cant's widow, Robina, 77, fought back tears as she insisted Mr Mohammed should have apologised in person.

In a statement expressing his sympathy for the families Mr Mohammed said he had been immunised against hepatitis B and checks following that vaccination appeared to show it had worked.

"I have complied fully with all protocols relating to testing for and immunisation against hepatitis B and I am utterly devastated to find myself in this terrible and totally unexpected situation," he said.

Mr Mohammed has not been involved in patient care since the end of June.