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Cause for concern: rogue surgeons operating in private hospitals

Posted: 26/02/2020

Recent news reports in The Times and The Guardian have revealed that one of Britain’s largest private health providers, Spire Healthcare, employed* a surgeon who is now under investigation for performing hundreds of operations unnecessarily or negligently.

The surgeon named in the reports is Mr Michael Walsh, a consultant shoulder surgeon who used to operate in Spire Leeds Hospital, as well as the Nuffield Health Hospital in Leeds. He has been suspended.

The unveiling of Mr Walsh as being under investigation for various clinical negligence cases follows a number of other disgraced surgeons working under the Spire Healthcare banner. In 2014 a private urologist, Mr Paul Miller, was suspended for treating patients using unconventional methods and causing them avoidable harm. Two years later, a urological surgeon named Mr Manu Nair was suspended for allegedly operating on patients to remove their prostates when there was no evidence of prostate cancer. 2017 saw a breast surgeon, Mr Ian Paterson, be convicted of 17 counts of wounding patients with intent, after performing mastectomies on women who did not have breast cancer. More recently, Mr Habib Rahman, a shoulder surgeon at the Spire Parkway in Solihull, was suspended following allegations that he had performed shoulder procedures on patients that were not clinically indicated.

Complaints against these surgeons include claims that they carried out procedures that were not indicated, had an eagerness to proceed to invasive treatment when there was no clinical reason but for which they would receive a higher fee, that procedures were performed with outdated techniques and with incorrectly sized components, and that implant components were fitted in the wrong position, causing poor outcomes.

Arran Macleod, a solicitor in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches Cooper, comments: “Patients often go to private healthcare providers such as Spire Healthcare and Nuffield Health because they feel that they will receive a higher standard of care and treatment than they would in the NHS. It can be extremely distressing for patients if they suffer a poor outcome and even more so if they subsequently learn that this has been caused by negligently performed or unnecessary treatment.

While substandard results can occur in either an NHS or private setting, clinical negligence specialists have concerns over some private surgeons operating without sufficient supervision and controls, meaning patients are being put at unnecessary and avoidable risk. These do not seem to be one-off incidents: over the last few years, many patients have allegedly come to harm because of the actions of these private surgeons.”

If you or a family member are worried about the treatment you have received from one of the above-named, or any other private surgeon, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with our specialist clinical negligence team.


* There is a legal argument that private hospitals are not liable for the actions of private consultants because they are not employees. The courts are currently considering the legal basis for such an argument.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP