Surgeon is suspended over bribery charge

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The Independent Online
A heart surgeon has been suspended on full pay after allegations that he took money to help patients jump the NHS queue for treatment.

A spokesman for the West Yorkshire Police's fraud squad said: "The inquiry is in its initial stages. We have had a report from the NHS Trust and we are commencing an investigation." The British Medical Association described the suspension as a "knee-jerkreaction".

Unnikrishnan Nair, aged 48, is one of four cardiac consultant surgeons providing a service at Leeds General Infirmary and Killingbeck Hospital, Leeds. He is based at the smaller Killingbeck unit. It is understood the allegations arose after a complaint from a fellow surgeon.

Mr Nair said yesterday from his home in Scarcroft, Leeds: "I firmly deny all the allegations, as they are totally untrue. I am sure the investigations will vindicate me when completed."

While GPs are specifically prevented from taking money from NHS patients the position is less clear in the hospital service. Doctors commonly work in both the NHS and in private practice but keep the activities segregated. A statement from the hospital said Mr Nair would be away from his duties on special leave pending the inquiry into the matter "which is not one of professional competence".

The statement issued by Leeds Healthcare added: "Health service guidance makes it very clear that suspension should be seen as a neutral act which is normal practice in such circumstances." He will continue working privately at the BUPA hospital in nearby Roundhay. Dr Malikayal Alexander, vice-chairman of the British Medical Association's Leeds Division, said: "I think in this case managers have had a knee-jerk reaction to what we believe is the first ever complaint against him."

Dr Alexander, who accompanied Mr Nair to a meeting with managers when the allegations were formally put to him, added: "Within the first two minutes of getting in there, managers told him he would not be required in the hospital until investigations are complete. The heart surgeon was "a completely honourable, decent and hardworking man". He was confident Mr Nair would be cleared.

Leeds has a waiting list of about six months of cardiac by-pass surgery, the commonest heart operation carried out. There are 660 people on the waiting list for heart surgery and approximately 770 operations are carried out a year. A typical heart by-pass would cost a private patient about £7,000. The consultant might expect £2,000 and the anaesthetist £1,000.