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Former Kent and Canterbury and Chaucer Hospital surgeon David Jackson's name is removed from medical register

By Lowri Stafford

A disgraced surgeon who botched dozens of operations while working at hospitals in Canterbury has been struck off the medical register - but avoided a public tribunal due to ill health.

Patients left disfigured by former Kent and Canterbury Hospital doctor David Jackson have been waiting up to seven years for him to answer 75 allegations of misconduct.

But today, his bid to voluntarily erase his name from the medical register was approved.

The Medical Practitioners' Tribunal Service decided to overturn an earlier decision not to grant the request, due to "rare and exceptional" circumstances.

Kent and Canterbury Hospital
Kent and Canterbury Hospital

This means Jackson, who lives in Nackington Road in Canterbury, will not have to face his former patients and their families at a public fitness to practise hearing.

Among his former patients was Whitstable mum-of-eight Jill Phillips, who died after receiving the incorrect operation for bowel cancer.

The 68-year-old died on the operating table in September 2006 from an infection as surgeons tried to correct damage caused by Jackson during an earlier procedure.

Another of his victims was breast cancer sufferer Pauline Gevaux, from River near Canterbury, who was left disfigured by a series of botched operations at the hands of Jackson.

Jill Phillips died on the operating table
Jill Phillips died on the operating table

In a decision announced today, the panel said Jackson was suffering from a serious, long-standing illness which would have prevented him from being able to participate in a tribunal.

They concluded he was unlikely to ever return to work, or want to practise medicine again.

Panel chairman Dr Anthony Morgan said: "The panel has been mindful of its responsibility to maintain and promote public confidence in the medical profession.

"The panel is satisfied that the public, if they knew of the severity and chronicity of Mr Jackson’s illness, would be satisfied that their interests had been taken into consideration even though the fitness to practise allegation remains unanswered.

There were 400 cases where surgery was carried out on the wrong body parts over the last four years. Stock image.
There were 400 cases where surgery was carried out on the wrong body parts over the last four years. Stock image.

“The panel determined that it would be in both the public interest and Mr Jackson’s own interest to accede to your application on his behalf for voluntary erasure.”

Medical negligence specialist solicitor Sarah Harman, who represented many of Jackson's former patients, said the decision provided no closure for them.

She said: "I know many of my clients will be very disappointed at this decision. Had the trust acted promptly way back in 2006 when the allegations first came to light, he would have been subject to a public investigation and justice would have been done.

"He has now avoided this. Former patients and their families have given statements and evidence about these very serious allegations. The whole process has now left them hanging.

"It's a very unfortunate outcome for his former patients, their families, and patient safety in general.

Medical negligence specialist lawyer Sarah Harman
Medical negligence specialist lawyer Sarah Harman

"It gives out the wrong message that if you make many mistakes, you can voluntarily retire without a public investigation, and is no incentive for doctors to improve their practices."

The East Kent University NHS Foundation Trust, which sacked Jackson in 2007, has already paid out £650,000 in compensation to victims of botched operations.

In 2012, the trust set up a hotline asking patients who believed their treatment had been bungled by Jackson to come forward.

Today, the trust declined to comment on Jackson's voluntary erasure.

Reacting to the decision, chief executive of the General Medical Council, Niall Dickson, said delays in this case prove a need for a change in the law.

"It's a very unfortunate outcome for his former patients, their families, and patient safety in general" - Sarah Harman

He said: "Dr Jackson has been suspended since 2007 and today’s decision by the tribunal panel means he will not be able to practise medicine in this country again. We welcome that.

"However, all of us should reflect on the fact that this case has taken far too long to resolve.

"Patients have been protected over the past six and a half years because he has not been able to practise, but the delay has added to the distress of the patients affected and to their families. I am very sorry about that.

"What happened here shows the urgent need to change the law. We feel strongly that, where we believe a doctor poses a risk to patient safety and the doctor is willing to leave the register, we should be able to deal with this as swiftly as possible."

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