Doctor quits on health grounds after 186 errors

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The Independent Online
A CONSULTANT pathologist suspended after making mistakes in the diagnosis of 186 cases - including one in which the patient died - has been allowed to resign on health grounds.

The hospital where he worked, Glan Clwyd Hospital near Rhyl, north Wales, is being sued by four families in cases where the misdiagnosis was considered 'serious' and had a 'significant impact' on the management of patients.

Dr Peter Needham, aged 53, was put on extended leave in July last year after colleagues expressed concerns to hospital managers about the standard of his work. An independent review of his handling of more than 12,000 cases over the previous five years found 186 cases in which he had made errors.

His job as a consultant histopathologist involved studying minute changes in samples of diseased tissue.

Dr Needham was formally suspended in March to allow disciplinary procedures to be invoked after an investigating panel decided that the quality of his work was 'not what one would normally expect of a consultant histopathologist'.

But the hospital announced yesterday that Dr Needham had resigned on health grounds on 30 September. Mr Ian Bellingham, director of operational services, said the hospital accepted the resignation after three separate medical reports showed that Dr Needham's ill health was a factor in his performance. He refused to reveal the nature of Dr Needham's illness.

He said Dr Needham had given an assurance that he would not return to practising any branch of medicine in the United Kingdom and had written to the General Medical Council asking for his name to be removed from the register.

All misdiagnosed patients have been informed, and those who suffered harm were given information by the hospital about how to seek legal advice. Four of the families were suing but the hospital believed it had done everything necessary to safeguard patients' interests, Mr Bellingham said.

Hospital consultants and specialists may take industrial action as part of a campaign against the Government's proposals to impose locally negotiated pay. The British Medical Association has decided to re-convene a sanctions working party if the Government tries to change doctors' contracts.