'I feel violated... I feel like I've been raped' - victim of brain surgeon scandal tells LBC she welcomes public inquiry

7 September 2023, 17:55

Campaigners, including Jules Rose (centre) outside the Scottish Parliament demanding a public inquiry.
Campaigners, including Jules Rose (centre) outside the Scottish Parliament demanding a public inquiry. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

A victim of dangerous brain surgeon Professor Sam Eljamel, Jules Rose, has told LBC today is a "moment in history" after the public inquiry she has spent a decade campaigning for, has finally been sanctioned by the Scottish Government.

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Ms Rose, 55, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour in 2013 but after going under the knife of Eljamel at Dundee's Ninewells hospital, she discovered he had instead removed a tear gland.

As a result she had to have a second operation with the professor covering up his mistake by telling her part of the tumour still had to be removed.

She later discovered that hospital bosses had concerns about him even before her surgery and had placed him under supervision.

Ever since she, and many others left with life-long conditions as a result of his operations, have been campaigning for an independent public inquiry into the cover up at NHS Tayside and for answers to why Eljamel was allowed to continue to operate on patients.

Today Scotland's Health Secretary Michael Matheson finally agreed to an inquiry, despite years of the government saying it was not required.

He told MSPs he had been unconvinced of the need for a public inquiry until he read a recent due diligence report by NHS Tayside into its actions around the handling of the surgeon and complaints about him. That, he said, had thrown up evidence of failings which could only be addressed by a public inquiry and had revealed significant information that had not previously been known by the Scottish government, despite eight reviews since 2018.

Reacting to the news, an emotional Jules Rose told LBC: "Today is a moment in history, and yes it's amazing. It's not all sunk in with me yet. I don't think it will til I go to bed tonight when I'm on my own and I just reflect and just know how much I've been through with this campaign.

"It's happy tears, you know, bittersweet but happy tears and it's a momentous day because it's the start of our voices being heard and the start of all these patients healing and being listened to."

She said that every day since her operations she has "lived with trauma" and had been diagnosed with PTSD. "It's a living hell. I haven't begun my journey of healing yet, and I won't be able to until I can get the kind of support the NHS Tayside so rightly need to give me.

"You know I trusted him, I thought he was God. I sent him a card after the first operation telling him he was my hero. I didn't know what was going on in the background in terms of him supposedly to be under supervision.

"I'd never had major surgery before. I had Googled him and his list of credentials was impressive, and he was the lead clinician of NHS Tayside of neurosurgery. Why wouldn't I put my trust and faith in him?

"But there was no duty of candour. He lied to me about my surgery and they [NHS Tayside] did not inform me of what was going on in the background.. I was not given a voice. They violated my human rights... I actually feel as if I have been raped."

She also fears that it's not just patients at the Dundee hospital who have been affected during the 18 years Eljamel worked there.

"Yesterday 44 patients contacted me - 44 new patients. So yes, we're talking over 250 patients now but my worry and my concern is we are talking about 1000s of harmed patients, not just 250 patients.

"You know, I've had backlash from patients saying they've been harmed prior to that. And they're saying, what about us? Where's that apology? Why are we not being acknowledged? And I can understand that frustration and anger. And so they should they should be acknowledged. And hopefully now, because we are now being granted our public inquiry, that this these patients won't be finally acknowledged on a one to one basis."

Announcing the inquiry, Health Secretary Michael Matheson said the due diligence review had uncovered a number of failings including that NHS Tayside did not respond to the General Medical Council about Mr Eljamel's request for voluntary erasure from the medical register, that there was no effective central Board oversight or co-ordination of significant historical information or reviews into concerns and there were multiple examples of reviews and investigations where there was no follow up action recorded and no or inadequate scrutiny, assurance or supporting governance.

He said that there were cases where, despite there being complaints, adverse event reports and legal claims, no formal review had been documented or retained, that documents of potential relevance were subject to destruction in accordance with routine retention periods - when putting a hold on such destruction would have better supported subsequent review processes and that there had been adverse events where no investigation could be identified and no reports of adverse events were formally recorded until several months following the incidents.

He added: "I have reflected on the concerns of former patients and MSPs since the findings were considered by the Board of NHS Tayside and am clear that the Board’s governance obligations were repeatedly not implemented in respect of concerns about Mr Eljamel.

"I consider that this now means that commissioning a full public inquiry under the terms of the Inquiries Act 2005, with the powers to compel witnesses, is the only route to get to the bottom of who knew what and when and what contributed to the failures described by NHS Tayside."

The government is yet to announce who will chair the public inquiry and what it's terms of reference will be, but it has also announced an independent case review for every affected patient.

Matheson said he wanted the case review to begin as soon as possible and that it would "allow a person-centred, trauma-informed review of each patient’s own clinical case, addressing their individual needs and circumstances and attempting to offer answers in a bespoke and personalised way that an inquiry may not.

"There are former patients who are still living each day with consequences of their treatment by Mr Eljamel and addressing their personal needs, in an individual clinical review that is conducted independently of NHS Tayside, remains an important part of this process."

Ms Rose said she hoped the inquiry would ensure proper support for affected patients and an eradication of "the level of toxicity that is within the culture of NHS Scotland, in terms of whistleblowers, so they should be able to come forward without any repercussions because that's currently not happening.

"We also need to have other governing bodies put under oath, so that they can name be held to account - why did NHS Tayside not call in the Health and Safety Executive? And also, most importantly, as well, that the patients can get answers so that we can begin our journey of healing and we can seek justice.

"We need to have all these medical professionals put under oath and to give the answers to our questions of what went on. Why it went on, Who knew Who knew what and who did what, when and when.

"Because, you know, throughout this campaign, what I've experienced and told is that there's other medical professionals, who say yes, I worked directly with Professor Eljamel but they wouldn't speak up. They refused even to this day, to speak up. And we now need these people to be put under oath, and give the answers that we saw, right we need and deserve to hear."

Prof Eljamel is no longer registered to work in the UK by the GMC but is believed to be operating in Libya.

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