Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 126-138)




  126. Can I begin by welcoming our witnesses to this session of the Committee and thanking all of you for being prepared to come before the Committee today? We have tried to draw from a number of individuals who have submitted evidence and a number of groups who have submitted evidence in respect of this inquiry. I recognise that your concerns are quite diverse and often about completely different issues, but we feel there is a relationship to our terms of reference and we appreciate the fact that you have been willing to come before us. Before I ask you to briefly introduce yourselves, obviously you are representing other people, in many instances, apart from yourselves. I would appeal to you to try and be brief within your evidence and to stick to our terms of reference, because I know a number of you have quite wide ranging concerns which may not be within our terms of reference. Can I begin by asking each of you to briefly introduce yourselves? I will ask you in a moment to say a bit more about your concerns and why you are here.

  (Mr Thrower) My name is David Thrower. I am the father of a child who was healthy in his first 14 months, who degenerated into autism after receiving a monovalent measles vaccination and who degenerated further into autism after receiving MMR.
  (Mr Powell) My name is Mr William Powell. I am here on behalf of the Bereaved Parents' Group who instigated this inquiry about the death of children and the cover up of the NHS following deaths and the lack of accountability. I am here to represent them all.
  (Dr Peart) My name is Reg Peart. I am the national coordinator for Victims of Tranquillisers. I am here to represent people who have suffered for many, many years with health problems due to the benzodiazepine group of drugs.
  (Ms Pappenheim) I am Karin Pappenheim, chief executive of The Haemophilia Society. I am here on behalf of patients with haemophilia who suffered widespread infection with HIV and hepatitis A, B and C through contaminated blood products that were used in their NHS treatment in the 1970 and 1980s and who have suffered very serious adverse outcomes as a result. It has been described as one of the greatest treatment disasters in the history of the NHS by clinicians working in the NHS. We are here because that patient group has still had no redress and no justice. One final remark I would like to make is that although I am here to represent them and very pleased to have that opportunity I would very, very strongly advocate that the Committee should find the time to speak to one or two of the patients who have been affected, because their own story is far more powerful than anything I could say here today.
  (Mr Elder) John Elder. I have been through the NHS complaints procedure twice in its entirety because of my wife's death. What I witnessed as a direct result made me think twice about the ability of the NHS complaints procedure in its present form. There are other issues as well, but that is roughly it.
  (Mrs Dowling) My name is Ann Dowling and I represent the Ledward Support Group. Our concerns are the lack of information we have had, the lack of interest when we have approached doctors, the lack of care, and I represent about 400 women.

  127. Can I begin, Mrs Dowling, by asking you to say a little bit more about the background to your particular concerns? Obviously we have read in the press of some of the issues that your group are concerned with. Could you describe a bit more how this all began? You appreciate that we need to keep these comments reasonably precise because all of you have a lot to tell us and we want to try and get through as much as possible in the time we have.
  (Mrs Dowling) I will try and be as brief as I can. It came to light when Mr Ledward was struck off that—

  128. Mr Ledward was a gynaecologist practising in which area?
  (Mrs Dowling) Yes, in the south-east Kent area. He had been practising there for about 16 years. When he was struck off, a great number of women contacted the CHC, which is the local health council. Subsequently, there was a meeting held and a great number of very angry, irate, traumatised women had come forward with lots of horrendous stories regarding their medical treatment, privately and in the NHS. One of the prime concerns is why did it take 16 years for this to come to light. We had no avenues of redress. There was no information given as to how we could go about seeking help.

  129. When was it first apparent that there was a problem with the treatment that he had given?
  (Mrs Dowling) To me personally?

  130. To anybody.
  (Mrs Dowling) To me personally, I was operated on in 1985. It was apparent to me at the time, shortly after, that there was something drastically wrong with me. I subsequently had to leave a well paid job, was registered disabled and have not worked since 1989. However, I thought I was just one and I lived for many years and thought I had dealt with the problem. I am speaking for everybody as well because they all thought they had dealt with the problem. I have not.

  131. How did you become aware of others who had similar problems?
  (Mrs Dowling) Through the publicity surrounding his dismissal, when he was struck off.

  132. When he was struck off, at that point you were not aware that others had had similar problems?
  (Mrs Dowling) No, not aware at all.

  133. Presumably, other patients have pursued their grievance to the extent of it going before the GMC?
  (Mrs Dowling) Since then or before?

  134. Before you were aware of a wider problem, for him to be struck off, cases would have been pursued to the GMC presumably?
  (Mrs Dowling) Yes.

  135. You were not aware of this problem until it was publicised that he had been struck off?
  (Mrs Dowling) That is right.

  136. At that point, was a group formed of women in your area?
  (Mrs Dowling) Yes. I am the vice-chairman of the support group. I heard a story yesterday from somebody else who has come forward. At the moment, I am receiving about two more new cases per week. When it first came out, they were just endless. Everyone has a horror story and we want to know why it lasted so long. He had been practising 16 years in Kent.

  137. Are there any common threads among the patients as to what had gone wrong, common themes?
  (Mrs Dowling) Yes. There are a lot of damaged bladders, a lot of back problems. There are a lot of women whose lives are impaired and totally different from the way they expected their lives to be.

  138. Do you have any other general points that you want to make that you feel are relevant to our terms of reference? You have seen the terms of reference which are fairly precise and clearly do relate to the issues that you were talking about.
  (Mrs Dowling) My concern is why have not these operations been explained in fuller detail to patients, what is going to happen to them. I fully realise that women of my generation just accepted what your gynaecologist told you or what a consultant told you because they were professional people and you trusted them. Why was there no other information available for aftercare, CHC and people like that? These things were not there, as far as I am concerned. I have had no help from social security, no help from the social services, no help from incontinence clinics. You are just left floundering about in the dark.

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