A doctor who worked for the same private healthcare company as rogue surgeon Ian Paterson performed unnecessary shoulder operations for financial gain, a medical tribunal has heard.
Orthopaedic consultant Michael Walsh worked at a Spire Healthcare hospital in Leeds from 1993 until 2018, when he was suspended after concerns were raised about his work.
Spire, which runs 38 hospitals around the UK, reported him to the General Medical Council (GMC) after an investigation found he carried out operations unnecessarily or badly, with many patients left suffering pain or trauma.
Mr Walsh, who also worked at another private hospital in Leeds run by Nuffield Health but is now retired, is facing dozens of medical negligence claims from patients, with some already having received payouts.
Paterson, a disgraced breast surgeon who worked at Spire hospitals in the West Midlands, received a 20-year prison sentence in 2017 after it was found that patients were subjected to damaging and unnecessary operations when less invasive treatment was more appropriate.
Surgery Carried Out "Without a Clear Diagnosis" Claim
Mr Walsh appeared at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) misconduct hearing after being accused of performing procedures that were "not clinically indicated" on seven patients between 2014 and 2018. He carried out some procedures without reaching a clear diagnosis, it's claimed, with one patient undergoing six operations on both shoulders over 4 years. Another patient had five procedures in 2 years on the same shoulder.
In six out of the seven patients, Mr Walsh admits to knowing he would benefit financially from procedures, but he denies administering injections for financial gain. He also admits carrying out surgery on one patient that wasn't clinically indicated, but he denies all other charges related to alleged unnecessary procedures.
Patient E's Rotator Cuff Tear
The tribunal heard from one female patient — referred to as Patient E — who underwent surgery to repair a tear to her right shoulder rotator cuff in March 2018.
It's alleged that Mr Walsh, who is representing himself at the tribunal, failed to discuss alternatives to surgery, and that the procedure was not clinically indicated — charges he denies.
Patient E claims he failed to discuss the procedure with her, and it was only when she was in theatre that she was told she was having a rotator cuff repair.
"Prior to that day, I was just told it was just a repair to the tendon," she said.
"I never heard the word rotator cuff.
"I was told it was going to be a small incision."
She believed she was undergoing a "simple, little tendon" procedure, she said.
But Dr Walsh told the tribunal that an ultrasound scan showed a "deterioration" and tear in the patient's rotator cuff, and his notes showed he had discussed a repair of the tendon. He pointed to a consent form, signed by the patient, and insisted the nature of the surgery would have been explained to her beforehand.
But when questioned by Adam Lodge, counsel for the GMC, Patient E said Mr Walsh had completed the patient consent form without giving her the opportunity to query it. She also claimed nonsurgical options were never discussed during a consultation with Mr Walsh.
Patient E said she had put her "trust" in him and followed his recommendation to undergo surgery.
But she added that she hadn't wanted another operation after undergoing another procedure 6 months earlier, because it meant further recovery and time off work.
Evidence From Expert Witness
Expert witness consultant orthopaedic surgeon Bibhas Roy told the tribunal that he didn't believe Patient E required surgery, given it was only an "intra-substance tear" in her shoulder, and that other options, such as physiotherapy, should have been discussed.
"The fact that surgery was not necessarily the right thing and could potentially cause other issues was not explained to the patient," he said. "I believe had those options been explained, the patient may have chosen a different treatment and may have chosen not to have surgery."
But Mr Walsh argued that the proceedings were "unfair" as Mr Roy had not seen the ultrasound scan, before adding that he didn't want to be on the GMC register anyway.
In the first prosecution of its kind, Spire was ordered to pay £20,000 in April 2021 after it delayed telling four patients about Mr Walsh's bad practice. Leeds Magistrates' Court heard that worries had been raised by multiple sources about his methods and surgery in 2017.
But the four patients waited too long to be properly informed of the "potential harm" caused by Mr Walsh.
Spire pleaded guilty to four counts of "noncompliance with the duty of candour" after the case brought by the Care Quality Commission.
Duty of candour legislation requires open and transparent communication with patients under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
The tribunal continues and is due to conclude on 1 December.