Surgeon takes action over suspension

PUBLISHED: 12:07 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

Bernard Palmer

Bernard Palmer

A CONSULTANT suspended amid concerns that he strayed beyond his expertise by carrying out complex gynaecological procedures has denied that he had disregarded professional and clinical boundaries . Bernard Palmer, a general surgeon at Lister Hospital, d

A CONSULTANT suspended amid concerns that he strayed beyond his expertise by carrying out complex gynaecological procedures has denied that he had "disregarded professional and clinical boundaries".

Bernard Palmer, a general surgeon at Lister Hospital, disputed the appraisal made by East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust management which alleged a lack of insight.

Mr Palmer, who worked at the hospital for 20 years until his suspension three years ago, described the assessment as a "very strange statement" at London's High Court on Tuesday.

Rebutting the lack of insight claim, he said those who worked with him and knew him well "would say the very opposite", adding: "What I do is very much patient-oriented, I simply do the best for my patients."

The surgeon, who lives in Pasture Road, Letchworth GC, insisted there was no evidence to support suggestions that he had "difficulty adhering to restrictions and boundaries" in his clinical life, also observing: "There is no difference between what I do and what my colleagues do."

He told the court he had received comprehensive, rigorous training in this area, which his background in general, oncological and other specialist forms of surgery more than equipped him for.

Mr Palmer's employers claim he may have carried out a series of gynaecological procedures despite instructions not to do so, cataloguing four hysterectomies to his name between 1999 and 2003.

But judge Mr Justice Forbes said that he would be reluctant to resolve what defined gynaecological or general surgery given the medical complexities involved.

Mr Palmer claims his July 2003 suspension was unjustified and invalid in both professional and contractual terms, and has launched the court bid to secure reinstatement and vindicate his reputation.

In this court action he also seeks a binding injunction barring the NHS Trust from pursuing disciplinary action against him.

Much of the legal dispute centres around a mutual agreement between Mr Palmer and the Trust that he would undertake a professional assessment at another hospital while being monitored by the National Clinical Assessment Service.

His lawyers claim that, although by summer 2005 Mr Palmer had pinpointed a suitable placement at the Peterborough District Hospital, the Trust subsequently withdrew from the agreement without good cause.

Gerard Clarke, the NHS Trust's barrister, defended the Trust's decision to suspend Mr Palmer in 2003, insisting that there was a case to answer worthy of investigation.

The nub of his clients' concerns related to the possibility of Mr Palmer having carried out procedures in cases where a consultant gynaecologist should have been called in, he told Mr Justice Forbes.

"That's why the Trust is concerned," he added.

The hearing continues.

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