Key NHS Tayside records vital to Eljamel inquiry ‘destroyed’

NHS Tayside records vital to the public inquiry into the Sam Eljamel scandal may have been destroyed.

We can reveal the health board does not have any files or documents detailing the rogue doctor’s 10-year spell as lead clinician for neurosurgery.

The revelations come after controversy over the Scottish Government’s record retention during the Covid pandemic, with a lack of information hindering the public inquiry into its handling.

Eljamel campaigners are worried they will not get straight answers in the probe they secured after years of struggle.

MSP Liz Smith, who has supported victims, said: “It is utterly unacceptable.”

Through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, The Courier identified three crucial areas where records have been lost.

1 – Was Eljamel ever assigned to monitor doctors requiring supervision between 1998 and 2008?

NHS Tayside said no records were available to determine whether Eljamel ever supervised any under-fire doctors between 1998 and 2008.

One of his successors as clinical lead, David Mowle, was given orders to keep watch over Eljamel in 2013 when concerns grew about his behaviour.

A report last August found the disgraced neurosurgeon was never directly monitored in the operating theatre, rendering his supervision inadequate.

Eljamel worked at Ninewells Hospital. Image: Kim Cessford/DC Thomson.

Patients with concerns over how NHS Tayside handled the scandal want to know to what extent Eljamel was involved in supervisory processes.

In an FOI response, the health board said: “Sam Eljamel was the Lead Clinician for Neurosurgery and Pain from 1998-2008.

“NHS Tayside has no other records around the list of clinical leads and a list of supervision cases each lead was assigned for neurosurgery for the time period requested.”

2 – Details of any meetings Eljamel attended with the Scottish Government in his role as lead clinician.

NHS Tayside was also unable to give The Courier details over any meetings Eljamel attended with the Scottish Government in his role as lead clinician.

This is because diaries of senior staff members are not retained for more than three years, meaning no such records remain.

As a result, it is not known whether he met with government officials regularly and, if so, how often discussions took place.

Disgraced Eljamel working in Libya.
Disgraced Eljamel working in home country Libya.

In an FOI response, the health board said: “NHS Tayside follows the NHS Scotland Code of Practice for Records Management.

“That code sets out retention periods for records.

“The retention period for diaries is two years from the end of the year, as such NHS Tayside holds no diaries or records that can provide a list of any meetings attended during the period requested.

“As such, this represents a notice that the information requested is not held by NHS Tayside.”

3 – Did Eljamel meet Jason Leitch in his role?

Eljamel was still in his post when Jason Leitch, now Scotland’s national clinical director, took on a senior NHS patient safety role within the Scottish Government in 2007.

Yet the lack of any official records from this time means NHS Tayside cannot say whether Eljamel and Mr Leitch were ever in meetings together.

National clinical director Jason Leitch.
National clinical director Jason Leitch. Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Questions have been raised over Mr Leitch’s links to the health board and his role in setting up a public inquiry.

Mr Leitch remains an employee of the NHS Tayside, on secondment to the Scottish Government.

Patients have raised conflict-of-interest questions, with the government insisting Mr Leitch has played no direct role in setting up the probe.

Eljamel campaigner has ‘significant concerns’

Eljamel – who was suspended in December 2013 – is believed to have harmed more than 100 patients during his time at Ninewells Hospital.

And his victims are alarmed by the records revelations.

Campaigner Jules Rose, from Kinross, says she has significant concerns.

Eljamel campaigner Jules Rose outside Police Scotland's Tayside divisional HQ
Eljamel campaigner Jules Rose. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“It is imperative that staff are called from that era to testify and offer the exact truth under oath,” she added.

Mid Scotland and Fife Tory politician Ms Smith, who has supported campaigners, added: “Given the extent of all the concerns about the malpractice of Eljamel during his time in post, it is utterly unacceptable that the health board is unable to provide full details about who knew about the complaints and when.

“Instead, it has been left to the individual patients, their families and representatives and those in the media to carry out the necessary investigative work to ascertain the true facts.”

An NHS Tayside spokesperson said: “NHS Tayside apologises to former patients of the surgeon and remains committed to do whatever is required to support all independent processes which are being set up by Scottish Government.

“NHS Tayside follows the NHS Scotland Code of Practice for records management. That code sets out retention periods for records.”

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