Cancer scare doctor says he is exonerated

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A DOCTOR at the centre of a cervical cancer scare claimed yesterday he had been cleared after an inquiry into the treatment of more than 1,000 patients. In March 1998, Graham Barker was sent on indefinite leave by St George's NHS trust, Tooting, after an independent review of 19 women said to have advanced cancer suggested that the early treatment given had been "unsatisfactory" or "gave cause for concern".

A total of 1,035 women treated over ten years by Mr Barker at St George's were recalled, of whom more than 600 attended for further checks. The data is still being analysed and the findings are not expected until next month.

However, Mr Barker, who is working at three London private hospitals after each exonerated him in separate inquiries, said he had been sent the St George's data for his comments. No cases of cancer had been found, he said.

"All the data has been released to me. I have not seen anything like 19 cases of advanced cancer. They were a mix of cases and some had been treated by others. They were not down to me. I have been unfairly pilloried," he said.

The trust had also claimed last July that 27 women with vaginal cancer had been mismanaged. Mr Barker said yesterday that this was "laughable". The condition was too rare for the figure to be believable, he said.

Mr Barker, who had run the colposcopy service at St George's since 1988, checking and treating women with abnormal cervical smears, said he had been told by the trust that no disciplinary action was being contemplated and that he had had "letters discussing my return".

But he had not decided whether to accept and was considering legal action because of the damage to his reputation.

He added: "After ten years and 6,000 patients if they couldn't find something to improve it would be beyond belief. If they want to assess my performance they will have to do a year by year audit."

He has been on full pay since March 1998 and estimated the cost of the inquiry was at least pounds 250,000.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of St George's, said he could not yet disclose the findings of the inquiry, which would itself be considered by an independent panel that would "review the whole episode".