Doctor quits after critical NHS report

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The Independent Online
A CONSULTANT radiologist who headed a heavily criticised breast cancer screening service has resigned after the publication of a report by a disciplinary inquiry, which was set up to investigate complaints of misconduct and incompetence against him.

Dr John Brennan, who headed the East Devon Breast Screening Service, said in a statement that he had resigned because of an "irretrievable breakdown of trust and confidence" between himself and the Royal Devon and Exeter Healthcare NHS Trust.

His resignation was offered on Tuesday before an extraordinary meeting of the trust board to consider the findings, and decide whether any disciplinary action should be taken against him. No payment had been made in connection with the resignation, the trust said.

Dr Brennan was suspended on full pay in November 1997 after it emerged that there had been delays in detecting breast cancer in nine women, two of whom had died. The screenings of almost 4,000 women, of the 75,000 women screened since the service began in early 1990, were re-examined, and over 1,700 were retaken. Dr Brennan ran the part of the unit based at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

A government inquiry into the service, headed by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, which reported in November 1997, said there was evidence of failure to provide care to the standard reasonably expected of consultants. An independent external inquiry panel was set up under Department of Health procedures.

Dr Brennan said yesterday that the inquiry panel's report was "critical of my clinical competence and conduct in various areas". He did not accept the findings, but had to accept that criticisms of his professional skills and conduct had been made.

Dr Brennan added that his resignation was the culmination of a disciplinary process that had lasted for almost two years and had put an "unbearable personal strain" on both him and his family.

Chris Over, an Exeter solicitor who is co-ordinating claims by about 50 patients arising out of the failure of the screening service, said he hoped that, following Dr Brennan's resignation, the trust would have more time to consider the resolution of the claims of patients, who had received letters admitting that an error had been made in their mammogram readings.