Tough tribunal decision welcomed by group action solicitor and victim of disgraced surgeon Rob Jones
The decision to strike off former RCHT medical director Robert Pitcher has been welcomed by the solicitor representing more than 200 women who allege they suffered harm at the hands of disgraced former gynaecologist and obstetrician, Rob Jones.
Mike Bird, of Foot Anstey LLP, said: “The tribunal concluded that Dr Pitcher showed a blatant disregard for safeguards. He failed in his obligation as medical director to protect patients from risk of harm posed by another colleague’s inadequate performance. He failed in his fundamental obligation to put patients’ safety first.
“Dr Pitcher’s failures mean that Mr Jones was allowed to continue to practice for another five years, until he was finally stopped in 2012.
“Many of the women and children treated by Mr Jones during that time, were put at unnecessary risk of harm. Those who were harmed are entitled to feel very angry indeed about that.
“The tribunal’s findings and conclusions in relation to the charges against Dr Pitcher are very powerfully worded. The tribunal makes clear that it is the duty of the Medical Director to protect patients first and foremost, and that doctors and patients must have confidence to raise concerns and know those concerns will be addressed properly. This is a very strong message, delivered by the medical profession, to senior medical managers at NHS trusts not only in Cornwall, but right across the country. It will be welcomed, I am sure, by patients and doctors alike.
“Medical Directors must remember that their number one priority is patients’ safety. If concerns are raised about doctors, especially by other doctors, then Medical Directors must act properly with patient safety uppermost in their
“Likewise, medical professionals must be reassured that if they raise concerns about their colleagues, those concerns will be treated seriously and responsibly. After all, it is often co-workers who are best placed to spot when a colleague is putting patients at risk.
“Mr Jones, the man at the centre of these proceedings against these three doctors, has escaped public investigation. He was the doctor who should carry
ultimate responsibility. But he took voluntary erasure in 2012, meaning that the GMC and the MPTS had no power to investigate or sanction him. He has not been held publicly accountable.
“It will be of some comfort to the injured women and children to see that the GMC pursued these allegations against all three doctors, and that the MPTS
took the allegations so seriously. The women and children who were brave enough to come forward and add their voices to the concerns about Mr Jones can feel that they have made a difference, not only in Cornwall, but nationally.
“There is a strong message here for all trust directors and managers: listen to your medical professionals and patients, take their concerns seriously, and do something about them. You have a responsibility to the public to ensure their safety, first and foremost, from underperforming doctors. That way, you might prevent doctors like Mr Jones harming patients. Whilst there might be very few doctors like Mr Jones still in practice, one is too many.”
Claire Hill, from Tywardreath, was one of those who suffered harm as a result of treatment and surgery by Mr Jones. She said: “I’m delighted but really, really
angry at the same time.
“I’m delighted because the tribunal has reinforced that patient safety is the most important thing in healthcare, and that doctors in management must remember that always. If they don’t, then they will be held accountable. I’m also delighted because this might help give junior doctors the confidence to come forward if they are worried about other doctors’ poor practice.
“But I am angry because I can’t believe how a medical director can have done what Dr Pitcher did and thought it was OK. It was not OK, the tribunal said it was shocking and deplorable. If Dr Pitcher had done his job properly, Mr Jones would have been investigated in 2007, maybe even earlier than that – and would probably been removed or retrained, so hundreds of women would have escaped the harm he did them.
“So I am really angry for all those women who put their trust in him and were betrayed.
“It’s a shame that Mr Jones has never been held to account. I’m sorry that other doctors have suffered for him, but I guess that’s less of a price than we paid.”