Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has revealed the establishment of a public inquiry to investigate the actions of Professor Sam Eljamel, a neurosurgeon accused of misconduct.
Professor Eljamel served at NHS Tayside from 1995 until his suspension in 2013 due to what Mr. Yousaf has characterized as “highly concerning behavior.”
The demand for a public inquiry has grown significantly following the recent release of a report by NHS Tayside. The report disclosed that Professor Eljamel performed surgeries on 111 patients during the period between his suspension and his departure from the institution.
Jules Rose, who has been advocating for an inquiry for the past ten years and established a pressure group to champion the cause, stated earlier this month that the potential number of patients affected by Professor Eljamel’s actions could exceed 200.
Speaking in Holyrood on Thursday – ahead of a statement from Health Secretary Michael Matheson on the issue – Mr Yousaf said: “This is a deeply important issue and I can inform the chamber today that Health Secretary Michael Matheson will use his statement to the chamber this afternoon to confirm that the Government has decided to commission a full, independent public inquiry.
“This comes after very careful consideration of the recent due diligence review, which said concerns about Professor Eljamel were not acted on with the urgency they deserved.
“In commissioning the inquiry, it remains important that those people directly affected are still supported to find the answers they need and that both staff and patients across Scotland know that lessons are being learned.”
Scottish Labour MSP Michael Marra, part of a coalition of politicians from the Tayside and Perth region advocating for an inquiry, expressed that the government’s announcement had to be extracted with effort. He also offered commendation to Ms. Rose and fellow campaigner Pat Kelly for their persistence.
Mr. Yousaf countered this characterization by stating that both he and the Health Secretary had never ruled out the possibility of a public inquiry into the actions of the disgraced surgeon.
Conservative MSP Liz Smith, a longstanding advocate for the victims’ quest for answers, greeted the decision warmly. She also raised the suggestion of exploring the possibility of establishing a victim support fund for those affected by these events.
Mr Yousaf said: “There are, as Liz Smith knows well, appropriate routes in relation to compensation that families can go through when it comes to health boards.
“Of course, if there are other avenues that we can explore to support patients, then we will give that consideration, but there are already established avenues for patients who have suffered as a result of the NHS to be able to claim compensation.”
He did admit, however, that these routes to compensation “can be difficult to navigate”, reiterating the Government will investigate any support that can be offered.
The announcement follows a gathering of patients who were harmed by Professor Eljamel during his tenure at NHS Tayside, along with campaigners. They convened outside the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, donning surgical attire as a symbolic call for a public inquiry.
Simultaneously, on that very day, Mr. Matheson informed journalists that there was a possibility that the errant doctor might be extradited from his current residence in Libya to face legal consequences in Scotland.