Cancer doctor got job without any interview

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A regional health authority allowed a temporary locum consultant who made more than 80 major errors in diagnosing cancer and other diseases to be appointed without any other senior doctor interviewing him, an inquiry revealed yesterday.

Dr Sam Kiberu, a histopathologist who made 531 errors in diagnosing 4,226 cases, 83 of them classified as "major", worked at Grantham and Bassetlaw hospitals in Lincolnshire and Derbyshire. His mistakes were uncovered by Dr David Clark, the consultant histopathologist who succeeded him at Grantham, and whose actions were commended by yesterday's inquiry.

Trent region appointed Dr Kiberu without a medical interview and despite his experience not matching that recommended in NHS guidance, the inquiry said yesterday.

And central funding for a quality assessment scheme which might help prevent such cases in future - or allow them to be detected earlier - has been ended by the Department of Health, the report revealed.

The report criticises both the Trent region and the two hospitals over Dr Kiberu's appointment, but says that despite "administrative shortcomings and weaknesses" there is "no evidence to conclude that these led directly to [his] inappropriate employment". It is possible that Dr Kiberu, a graduate of a Tanzanian medical school who had become a fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists in 1990, would have been appointed anyway.

Tougher standards over the appointment of consultants are needed, however, the report suggests - even if this risks "short-term disruption of services". It also recommends wider adoption of external quality assessment schemes to improve standards in histopathology, but says the Department of Health has withdrawn central funding for them.

The department admitted that yesterday, but said it hoped pilot and demonstration project would begin again next year, funded through laboratories charging a levy on NHS trusts for the services they provide.

Dr Kiberu has been suspended since January 1995 until the end of his NHS contract this month, but is understood to be working in the Middle East.