Public Confidence in the Media and Police

Part of Business without Debate – in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 20th July 2011.

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Photo of John Hemming John Hemming Liberal Democrat, Birmingham, Yardley 6:31 pm, 20th July 2011

Obviously, I will have to truncate my speech greatly. We recognise that there has been a cover-up going on, and we have to look at whether it is too easy in this country to cover things up. I want to consider a couple of other examples of cover-ups, and then look at how the rules for judicial review could be changed. I will try to get it done quickly, so that Margot James can speak.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board employs Dr Paul Flynn, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. From 2002 to 2005, he performed over 100 operations on cancer patients against national guidelines. Concerns about Dr Flynn had been passed since 2003 to Dr John Calvert, the medical director who had hired him. However, Dr Flynn was only prevented from treating cancer patients in May 2005, after six surgeons complained directly about his poor respect of tissues, questionable knowledge of anatomy, lack of appreciation of what is on X-rays, and lack of a realistic surgical approach to cancer.

That is very much like the situation with the News of the World: there is a very serious problem and the management’s response, rather than to put their hands up, is to go for a cover-up. Rather than tell patients that they had been operated on by an untrained surgeon, the trust spent over £375,000—the equivalent of 20 nurses’ salaries—on gagging the original whistleblower, Dr Ihab Korashi, who was threatening to contact patients and expose what is a cover-up. Unlike the News International case, in this instance the court hearings were held in secret and held no fear for those who wished to keep the truth from public view.

Dr Korashi had reported his concerns to South Wales police—so we have a similar problem with the police—and the regulator, but the police ignored CPS advice that officers should pursue further lines of inquiry. The sad situation is that his wife, Dr Toulan, who was also a gynaecologist and suffered from cancer, wrote to the trust’s chief executive in March urging them to tell patients and relatives “the truth”. The response of the trust’s lawyers was remarkable. They said that patients would not be informed and served Dr Toulan, while she was in hospital, with an injunction, warning that she could go to prison if it was broken. She died from cancer 10 days ago.

What we have here is an example of a cover-up, and we need to change the rules so that ordinary people can challenge the state and successful companies. News International could have got away with all this if somebody had not taken the chance of taking it to civil proceedings. There are big cost risks associated with that. We also need to review the costs rules, particularly at the permission stage for judicial review, so that people can challenge public authorities without taking major risks.

I will now sit down, so that the hon. Member for Stourbridge can speak.


Christopher Squire
Posted on 25 Jul 2011 10:29 am (Report this annotation)

The Health Board's reply to John Hemming's allegations is at: