NHS managers blundered over Neale, says Chief Medical Officer attacks

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Richard Neale, the disgraced gynaecologist found guilty of botching operations by the General Medical Council, should not have been allowed to work in Britain for 14 years, the Government's chief medical officer said yesterday.

Richard Neale, the disgraced gynaecologist found guilty of botching operations by the General Medical Council, should not have been allowed to work in Britain for 14 years, the Government's chief medical officer said yesterday.

Professor Liam Donaldson criticised the failure of NHS employers in Yorkshire, where Mr Neale worked from 1985 to 1995, to act on information they received about his record in Canada. Once the information that he had been struck off the medical register in Canada emerged, it should have raised questions about the validity of his appointment in the NHS, he said.

Managers should have intervened in a more "robust" way and later, when Mr Neale applied to the Canadian medical authorities for restoration to the register and was refused, that should have rung "loud alarm bells", Professor Donaldson said.

The chief medical officer was speaking the day after Mr Neale, now aged 56, was found guilty of 35 charges of incompetence, negligence and recklessness against 12 women in one of the worst cases to come before the GMC. The council's professional conduct committee began hearing evidence in mitigation yesterday and will decide next week whether Mr Neale should be struck off the British medical register.

Mr Neale emigrated to Canada in 1977, after qualifying in London in 1970, but returned to Britain in 1985 after being charged with serious professional misconduct in relation to the death of a patient. He did not disclose this information when he applied for a job with the Yorkshire regional health authority at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton in January 1985. When, later that year, the health authority learnt he had been struck off in Canada it failed to take action against him.

Professor Donaldson said: "In my view when they discovered the doctor had not divulged crucial information at the time of his appointment ... that should have been an opportunity to look at the validity of the appointment."

He said NHS procedures had been inadequate in the past and it was difficult to make a judgement about what had happened in the mid-1980s without seeing the relevant documents. But he added: "When it came to light that he had been struck off I felt a more robust intervention should have been made then."

Professor Donaldson, who was previously northern regional medical officer, said: "I would certainly have taken advice about withdrawing his appointment."

When Mr Neale applied for restoration to the Canadian register in the late 1980s his appeal was rejected on the grounds that he lacked insight into the problems that had led to his being struck off. Professor Donaldson said: "When that information came back to his employers, another alarm bell should have rung very loudly at that time."

Plans for tighter monitoring of doctors will be included in the Government's blueprint for the NHS to be published next week.

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