Former Lister Hospital surgeon speaks out over suspension

Bernard Palmer

Bernard Palmer - Credit: Archant

A SURGEON suspended from his post due to concerns over his conduct has broken his silence, claiming an NHS Trust spent millions of pounds in taxpayers money defending their case.

Bernard Palmer, who worked at Lister Hospital, spoke to the Comet for the first time since a tribunal hearing last year.

The Letchworth GC resident, who has since retired, claims millions of pounds was spent on the hearing.

He said: “The cost has not been just a few millions, you also have to factor in legal costs, training consultants and locums. The personal costs are horrendous and nobody seems accountable for my suspension. It has cost the taxpayer mega-bucks.”

Despite a legal agreement between the East and North Herts NHS Trust and Mr Palmer preventing the former surgeon from talking about any financial aspects of the case, it has been reported in national media the Trust spent £2m after Mr Palmer took it to the High Court in 2006 for breach of contract and unfair dismissal.

The father of four was suspended in 2003 amid concerns he strayed beyond his expertise by carrying out complex gynaecological procedures.

There were also concerns about patient consent not being sought or obtained by the surgeon.

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Mr Palmer, who was put on gardening leave for six years, describes himself as a “born surgeon”.

He has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining he always worked within his area of specialism and insisted on proper patient consent.

Since his suspension, he has written a book and been actively involved in teaching medicine to people at the Christchurch in Baldock.

“It is finished as far as I am concerned, I don’t want to be vindictive,” he said.

“But I do have questions over why the NHS does not investigate matters of why the system is used to get rid of people.”

A spokesman for the East and North Herts NHS Trust said: “We can say that the Trust has not, in any way, restricted Mr Palmer’s ability to raise clinical concerns or to ‘blow the whistle’.

“Mr Palmer has always been – and continues to be – at full liberty to raise any issues with regard to his clinical practice and/or patient safety. Mr Palmer was suspended originally in July 2003 following serious concerns raised about his clinical practice within the Trust. The Trust has never since accepted that he was not working outside his field of expertise in the cases concerned.”

He added: “It would be grossly misleading and simply not true, therefore, to suggest that Mr Palmer has been gagged from raising issues of patient safety or clinical practice in any way.”