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Dr. Evan Harris: Yes, I will.

Dr. Ladyman: We have another area of agreement.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: Has the Minister had time to take further advice on the Bill's effect on donor cards? Will carrying a donor card be sufficient evidence of consent so that other objections can be overruled if relatives disagree or cannot be found?

Dr. Ladyman: Carrying a donor card would take precedence, but since we would need to survey relatives

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for screening purposes and would never perform a transplant against the strong wishes of a relative whether or not we had presumed consent, in practice the situation would not change. As far as the Bill is concerned, the donor card is a clear statement of the individual's preference.

I shall correct one other point mentioned by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe. He said that the Transplant Partnership supports presumed consent, but I can tell him that it does not—it is the British Medical Association that supports presumed consent.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) asked whether the code will be enforceable in law. Not following the codes of practice will not trigger proceedings, but the authority may take not doing so into account when it comes to issuing, reviewing or withdrawing licences. I hope that I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised; we will deal with the other points in Committee. I strongly commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

HUMAN TISSUE BILL (PROGRAMME)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [28 June 2001 and 6 November 2003],


Question agreed to.

HUMAN TISSUE BILL [MONEY]

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),

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Question agreed to.

HUMAN TISSUE BILL [WAYS AND MEANS]

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with Bills),


Question agreed to.

DELEGATED LEGISLATION

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

European Communities


Question agreed to.

Water Framework Directive

Ordered,


Ordered,


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15 Jan 2004 : Column 1047

Dr. Raj Mattu

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Kemp.]

6 pm

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West) (Lab): First, may I say how grateful my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South (Mr. Cunningham) and I are to Mr. Speaker for granting the debate? My hon. Friend wishes to contribute to the debate, although we are both conscious that we must allow time for the Minister to respond.

This is the third debate that we have had on the Walsgrave trust and the suspension of Dr. Mattu. On 20 March 2002, shortly after Dr. Mattu was suspended, we held a debate in which we welcomed the new management at the hospital and said that we hoped that the suspension would not be a repeat of the previous two—one ended in the vindication of Mr. Alban Barros D'Sa after nearly two years. Unfortunately, our hopes have been shattered and we are in the same position as we were during the second debate, which was held on 28 October 2003, when we could see that little, if any, progress was being made. During that debate, we asked the trust management, the NHS and the National Clinical Assessment Authority to make every effort to resolve the problem by finding a compromise agreement because the soundings that we were receiving were not good.

We are now three months further on—two years into the suspension—and, far from making progress, we have gone backwards. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South will agree that I say that in the light of a meeting that we had on Tuesday of this week with the highest representatives of the NCAA and, indeed, Mr. Ian Stone, who has been appointed by the chief executive of the national health service himself to—as he put it—speed up the job of getting doctors back to work. I am sure that both gentlemen are fine civil servants, but they live in a different world from us. Indeed, I think that they live in a celestial world, so I am reminded of the hymn that goes:


It seems as though the investigation and those that preceded it have gone on for ages, yet despite the bureaucracy surrounding the case, the NCAA, the NHS, and the trust seem unable to grasp the fact that it costs money and causes pain and aggravation for the people of Coventry. Everyone would agree that the situation has gone on for too long and at too great a cost, and that it has caused too much personal suffering to the doctor involved.

It is all very well to say that suspension is a neutral act, but it is not a neutral act in the real world. It is a harsh act that is imposed on a doctor who thus suffers—perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly. The fact of that suffering must carry with it a deep moral obligation to expedite the process as quickly as possible. On Tuesday, we quite reasonably asked how much longer the

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suspension would last. We were told, as if it did not matter at all, "Oh, at least another six months." Costs will probably therefore greatly exceed £500,000. It will probably be another nine months, or two or even three years before a solution is reached. The parties could have sat round a table at the beginning of this process to reach such a solution, had there been the will to do so. I shall return to that in a moment.

Essentially, the charges amount to bullying of a subordinate doctor by his superior. Bullying is a serious charge, and I do not wish to minimise its significance. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), who is in the Chamber, is Deputy Chief Whip, but when he was just a Whip he was accused of bullying somebody in the Lobby. We did not take three years to sort that out—it was done via the usual channels in a week or two. So why is it taking so long to sort out Dr. Mattu's case? The National Audit Office has pointed out that £14 million has been wasted on suspensions. The Government and the NHS have finally been prodded into action by issuing many new guidelines to speed up the processing of suspensions.

However, those guidelines cannot help us in this case. We were told on Tuesday that we could not invoke them as the matter had gone too far. I want to alert the NHS and the NCAA to a new development. Dr. Mattu's principal accuser, Dr. Gieowarsingh, has now been reported to the General Medical Council—I cannot comment on the rights and wrongs of the allegation, just as I cannot do so in the other case—for serious misrepresentation on his CV. We will not prejudge the outcome or comment on the case, but we understand that the GMC is likely to respond and commission its own inquiry. There is therefore an inquiry into Dr. Mattu's chief accuser, and Dr. Mattu himself has been suspended for two years.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister is aware of the nature of the allegations against Dr. Gieowarsingh, which have been forwarded to my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, North-East and for Coventry, South, as well as me. I shall not trouble the Minister with them now, but I shall send them on to him in case they have not reached his office. To use layman's terms, it appears that Dr. Gieowarsingh may have exaggerated the number of his quasi-surgical interventions by a factor of between three and five. There is therefore the prospect of new allegations, counter-allegations and an investigation of the person who called for the initial investigation. Neither the House, nor the Minister, nor anyone concerned could view such a prospect with equanimity.

I therefore urge the trust, via the Minister's good offices, to proceed carefully. It appears that it has looked at the allegations against Dr. Gieowarsingh which have been in existence for some time, and agreed on the nature of the figures that I shall send to the Minister. When it talked to staff—those conversations are not documented or recorded, and I am not aware of any signed affidavits—it concluded that he had performed far more procedures than were recorded. We have to wait to see what the GMC will make of that—I do not want to prejudge the outcome, as I have already said. It

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will also have to take into account representations by the clinical director at Walsgrave and David Edwards of the University Hospital of Wales, the hospital to which Dr. Gieowarsingh moved. Walsgrave has said that none of the allegations against Dr. Gieowarsingh calls into question the integrity of his CV.

We shall have to wait for the outcome of that case, but the prospect is a big mess—more costs, more delay and more personal suffering, which is to be shared by those who inflicted it on Dr. Mattu. However, there is an alternative, as a compromise agreement could be reached. If a compromise is to be successful, as I said in the Adjournment debate on 28 October last year, it must involve two things. First, allegations must be dropped by both sides—there can be no fault and no admission of fault. Secondly, it must reflect sincerity and good will on both sides. It is no good the trust asking where all the information came from, as one of our purposes as elected representatives in the House is to make representations on behalf of people who feel that their voices are not being heard. So it is no good the trust objecting to our using that information.

If the trust wants to know where the information comes from, I will tell it. It comes from Dr. Buckley, who is Dr. Mattu's GP. Dr. Buckley has circulated all that information to everyone involved, including the Prime Minister. I think that the only person to be exempted from his intentions is Her Majesty the Queen herself. Everyone else knows everything. He writes, quite clearly, that the trust recommended, as part of the so-called compromise agreement, that Dr. Mattu should see Professor Flahey. I called up his record on the internet, and he is an expert in pathological tendencies. So perhaps the trust got the two doctors mixed up: perhaps it thought that Dr. Shipman should be counselled, not Dr. Mattu—I do not know, but clearly neither of those points in any way shows good will on the part of the trust. So we are doubtful, and I think that I speak for my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South, who will speak in a few minutes' time. Everyone agrees that those two aspects of the so-called compromise that we can now bring into the public domain have to eliminated if the agreement is to be seen as genuine.

There is an alternative: perhaps those involved cannot bring themselves to settle on reasonable terms for whatever reason—perhaps loss of face or other irrelevant personal considerations. I do not understand why that should be so because, after all, the chief executive was not even there when Dr. Mattu was suspended, although the chairman was. Indeed, the case dates back to the previous chief executive, who left the trust precisely on the grounds of intimidating, bullying and suspended doctors, as about six of our colleagues know, and some of them have joined us this evening.

If the trust cannot enter into the spirit of compromise, the alternative is that we should have an independent investigation—but a genuinely independent one, not one commissioned by the trust, or under the auspices of the NHS or the NCAA, all of which seem to be on the side of the trust. This has become a confrontational arrangement, as nothing about suspension is neutral. How can it be neutral? The doctor was accused of something one day and was suspended one and a half days later. That does not even allow for the barest examination of the merits of the case.

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I am sure that a compromise would be every hon. Member's preferred solution, as it is in the House. Otherwise, let us have an independent investigation and face all the resulting consequences, which would be grave for the trust, grave for Dr. Mattu and, indeed, grave for the public interest.


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