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When practitioners fail their patients: Gynaecologist Rod Irvine struck off by GMC

Caron Heyes
16/01/2017

Rod Irvine, a consultant gynaecologist with an extensive private practice and formerly employed by King's College Hospital and the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, has been struck off by the General Medical Council (GMC) as being unfit to practise.

His failings in the care of patients were multiple, and he was found to be practicing privately without indemnity insurance.

Irvine was first suspended from practice in 2013 after his then employers, South London Healthcare NHS Trust, raised serious concerns about his treatment of several patients.  This ranged from using offensive language about patients in person, in correspondence and in medical notes, inappropriate examinations, incorrect and/or unnecessary surgery and poorly prepared and inaccurate notes.

One of the main reasons Irwin was struck off, however, was because he had been practising for years without insurance.  This means that any patients injured by him could only sue him personally because there was no insurance to cover the costs of a claim.

I successfully concluded a case for an NHS patient against Irvine in 2016, obtaining a five-figure settlement for pain and suffering, including the psychological distress of being mistreated by him in what should have been minor surgery to correct a vaginal prolapse.

NHS doctors are covered by the NHS body trust that employs them, but medical practitioners carrying out private work are required to carry their own indemnity insurance. Irwin's deliberate failure to obtain appropriate insurance cover exposed his patients to great risk, without their knowing.

To make matters worse, Irwin declared himself bankrupt soon after the GMC investigation began, which means that even if a claim is successful against him personally, he is unlikely to meet any claims for financial compensation or cover the claimant's costs of bringing the case.

The tragedy of this case is that Irwin managed to work for so long within the NHS without his multiple failings being picked up and was able to work for years without having to prove to the General Medical Council that he was properly insured.

While many of Irwin's patients will simply be relieved that he has been struck off to prevent his injuring anyone else, it is very unlikely that his private patients with be able to purse a civil claim against him.

It's a heavy price to pay to trust a professional to provide the highest quality treatment, only to be let down in the worst possible way.

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