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John Bradley Williamson, a leading spinal orthopaedic surgeon at Salford Royal Hospital and the Spire and Manchester Children’s Hospital, has been the subject of an investigation by the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust. This follows allegations of professional and surgical misconduct against the scoliosis specialist during his practice at Salford Royal between 1996 and 2015.

In March 2023, Spire Healthcare opened their own investigation and conducted a patient notification of their concerns, inviting former patients of Mr Williamson to have their care reviewed.

Manchester Children’s Hospital is also understood to be investigating.

Why is Mr Williamson being investigated?

Concerns about Mr Williamson’s practice first came to light in 2014 via an anonymous whistle-blower, who reported issues with Mr Williamson’s behaviour, conduct, integrity and capabilities. An investigation was carried out into these allegations and Mr Williamson was dismissed from Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (now run by Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust) in January 2015.

Six years later in 2021, a group of employees came forward with more concerns about Mr Williamson’s behaviour. They made it apparent that records kept at the time had not been accurate and the surgeon’s documentation was inconsistent with other healthcare professionals. A further investigation was opened in 2022, with the findings published in July 2023.

The damning report found that Mr Williamson had been endangering patients with poor surgical technique, record keeping and communication amongst other issues. Of the 130 Salford Royal patients reviewed as part of the investigation process, it was found that 20 had been severely or moderately harmed. Seven had died. The Trust’s report identified a number of themes in Mr Williamson’s cases, including:

  • Poor planning
  • Lack of informed patient consent
  • Decision making against other medics’ advice/agreement
  • Patients experiencing higher blood loss than expected
  • Delays during surgery
  • Substandard surgery due to lack of care and attention
  • Failing to meet standards of being open and honest, in line with the duty of candour
  • Significant professional issues with staff and patients

Mr Williamson’s surgeries left patients with blood loss, long term pain, and mobility issues. His surgical technique was judged to be poor in multiple cases, with problems including screw misplacement in patients’ spines. In a number of cases, Mr Williamson was found to have “incorrectly applied paediatric surgical practise and concepts to more complex adult surgical patients.”

After discussion with patients about their experiences with Mr Williamson, it emerged that despite the variety of their surgeries, there was a theme of the same four risks being identified during the consent process. These four risks did not reflect those of the proposed surgery. That means that in many of the cases investigated, patients had not been given the right information at the right time to give consent to the treatment they received.

The Trust recognised that “suboptimal governance practices” played a part in Mr Williamson’s clinical incidents not being fully investigated at the time. Dr Rafik Bedair, the Trust’s Chief Medical Officer, said that they are “deeply sorry” for the harm caused. Situations like this are a reminder to Trusts of the importance of recognising patterns of poor outcomes and ensuring strong governance practices, with a culture of openness and honesty when things go wrong.

While the Trust’s investigation report has now been published, patients of Mr Williamson are still being asked to come forward for a review of their care if they wish. Is it not known whether more issues will surface.

With regards to his private practice, Spire Healthcare have revoked Mr Williamson’s practicing privileges. He last operated at the Spire in 2013.

Gillian Clark, Partner at Enable Law said: “Mr Williamsons’ practice raises concerns.  We need to ask why he was allowed to continue operating for so long and why investigations have been left until now.  For the sake of patient care, we need to learn from mistakes, improve practice and monitor standards better.”

What should I do if I have been treated by John Bradley Williamson?

Enable Law specialises in representing people who have been injured by negligent spinal surgery.

Our team has decades of experience supporting injured people access funds to help put their lives back together following medical negligence. Within the team we have experts with significant understanding of very complex medical procedures, surgical negligence especially relating to the spine is a very complicated area as the risks associated with spinal surgery can be high, so it is important that if you do wish to pursue a claim you do so with a solicitor with specialist expertise and knowledge.

If you or a loved one are uncertain whether you may have a claim or are concerned about the treatment you have received, a member of our specialist spinal and orthopaedic surgery medical negligence team will be happy to have a free, confidential discussion with you.

You can contact us by calling us on 0800 044 8488 or filling in our form below so we can call you back at a time that suits you. Contact Us – Enable Law

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