A surgeon accused of botching operations that left five women dead and seven more injured was found to be incompetent yesterday.

Steven Walker, 44, a consultant general surgeon at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, faced dozens of accusations in relation to 12 operations. His surgery involved liver, bowel and breast operations including reconstruction of breasts after mastectomies.

The professional conduct committee of the General Medical Council found that of the dozens of complaints against Mr Walker, almost 50 were proven, including many of the most potentially serious allegations. Another 20 charges were dismissedby the panel.

Today, the committee will hear mitigation before deciding whether the allegations amount to serious professional misconduct, and if so, whether Mr Walker will be banned from practice, suspended, or simply supervised during certain operations.

Mr Walker had been told to stop working after an 86-year-old patient lost huge amounts of blood during cancer surgery. The woman, who had angina, suffered two heart attacks during the operation and died three months later.

After the operation, the hospital's 16 anaesthetists withdrew their support for Mr Walker, who was found guilty of undertaking procedures without "clinical competence and technical expertise", although he was cleared of complaints in relation to the woman, patient "AH", who died on 4 July 1995.

Mr Walker was found guilty of failing to pay sufficient regard to the safety of patient "DM", who lost 17 litres of blood and died within two hours of a liver operation. The bleeding was so bad that staff had difficulty transfusing enough to replace it, the hearing was told.

Mr Walker turned his back on the bleeding patient to supervise photography of the liver he had removed.

The hearing was told that Dr Peter Hayes, the medical director who had appointed Mr Walker in April 1995, made notes of a meeting with the surgeon four days after the anaesthetists withdrew their support. The notes, that were read out at the hearing, said staff had been "dismayed by what appeared to be a cavalier approach". They had raised concerns about blood loss and an "unwillingness to communicate with anaesthetists".

The notes said Mr Walkerhad explained he had tried to do "innovative things to move the surgery forward", but admitted he had been "somewhat dismissive in his eagerness to put Blackpool on the map".

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Helen Matheson said Mr Walker had turned his back on "DM", a heavily bleeding patient, to supervise photography of the liver he had just removed. She said the bleeding was so bad that staff had difficulty transfusing enough to replace it. Eventually the patient needed 17 litres. The woman died within two hours .

In another case, the GMC was told, a woman anaesthetised for a breast implant operation was left waiting because Mr Walker realised he had the wrong size of implant. A taxi had to be sent to a hospital in another town to pick up the right size.

Mr Walker was suspended on full pay in early 1999.

The Blackpool hospital has already conducted a review of more than 100 cases handled by Mr Walker, who denies serious professional misconduct.

The hearing continues.

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