The disgraced doctor left free to prey on patients in Britain
A foreign doctor was able to sexually harass nurses, defraud the vulnerable and misprescribe drugs because of “gross negligence” by regulators.
For four years Dr Maurice Saadien-Raad, a South African, practised in hospitals across Britain, despite leaving a trail of devastation in his wake. He gave the wrong drugs to seriously ill patients, sexually harassed women he was supposed to be treating and even preyed on nurses.
He conned £50,000 out of one depressed patient who was undergoing psychiatric treatment and tried to persuade a 17-year-old girl to marry him.
However, it took the medical watchdog four years to suspend him, despite warnings from the father of one of Saadien-Raad’s patients that the doctor was already known to be a danger in his native country and in Australia.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has uncovered how the doctor used a loophole to work as a locum in nine NHS hospitals and trusts without his record being checked.
This newspaper has also established that thousands of other foreign doctors could be working in Britain with similar records of misconduct because, until five years ago, not all were checked with the foreign equivalents of the General Medical Council before they were allowed to practise. The disclosure raises serious concerns about the GMC, which did not suspend Saadien-Raad immediately after allegations about his conduct were made in Britain.
The 63 year-old, who trained in South Africa, registered with the GMC in 1977 but spent much of the 1980s and 1990s working in his native country as a surgeon and GP. He was suspended twice for failings including inappropriate prescriptions and, in 1990, was threatened with expulsion from the profession for wrongly claiming medical aid.
One patient was found to still have tonsils after he carried out an operation to remove them and, in another case, he tried to perform the same operation on a patient who had already had tonsils removed.
In 2001, he gained work as a GP in the Australian state of Tasmania. But within a month he was sacked because of concerns about his competence. Staff became alarmed that he did not seem to know which drugs should be given for basic ailments. When the practice manager’s young son developed an ear complaint, he was seen to search the internet for the word “ears” before prescribing a remedy.
Nicholas Shakespeare, an author and literary critic for the Telegraph, who was living in Tasmania at the time, became worried after his son Max, then aged nine months, became poorly after a vaccination. Records showed the doctor had documented an entirely different type of jab to that which had been booked. Mr Shakespeare began to question the doctor’s credentials and contacted medical regulators in South Africa, who revealed Saadien-Raad’s catalogue of failings.
In 2003, Mr Shakespeare, by then back in Britain, discovered that the doctor was working in England. Saadien-Raad was able to do so simply by not telling the GMC that he had twice been suspended in South Africa.
The writer informed the GMC of Saadien-Raad’s past and it began an investigation. Unknown to Mr Shakespeare, the regulator found the doctor guilty of serious professional misconduct in 2004 for concealing the disciplinary action. But he was not struck off.
Niall Dickson, the GMC’s chief executive, said last night that because the watchdog did not have enough details of the reasons for Saadien-Raad’s suspension in South Africa – despite asking 18 times for the information – it could not strike him off. The South African regulator said it was unaware of the requests.
Mr Shakespeare said: “It’s extraordinary that a foreign doctor like Raad was able to come to the UK with such an abysmal record and be allowed to treat patients. “The GMC was warned about him and yet they failed to ban him. What does a doctor have to do to be investigated properly? Murder someone?
“Their failure to respond resulted in I don’t know how many preventable cases of malpractice. During his time in Tasmania he left a trail of devastation. One only needed to have Googled his name to have discovered his history. If this is the best gatekeeping that our medical guardians can do, it makes you wonder how many other dodgy doctors are out there.” He said: “I think it’s grossly negligent that they did not take immediate action.”
It was not until 2007 that Saadien-Raad was finally suspended from the medical register after further allegations were made against him. His charge sheet by the time he was struck off last month reached 60 pages. The GMC heard that victims included a patient being treated for depression who lent the doctor £50,000 when he was grieving over the death of his mother.
Saadien-Raad threatened to kill his terrified victim, persuaded him to take driving licence points for speeding and asked the “aghast” married man for a civil partnership to help him stay in the UK. The doctor later proposed to a 17 year-old girl for the same reason.
In Staffordshire, elderly patients suffering from dementia were given the wrong drugs, while in Cumbria a deaf woman who was seriously ill was persuaded to lend Saadien-Raad £6,000.
As he moved around the country, female colleagues and patients also became the target of sexual harassment. At South Warwickshire NHS Primary Care Trust, Rachel Willet, a nurse, was pestered with up to five phone calls a day. Another nurse, Julia Grint, who worked with Saadien-Raad at the mental health unit of Leighton Hospital in Cheshire, was subjected to repeated advances, and attempts to molest her.
She said: “He used to push me up against the walls at work and try to kiss me. I had to push him off me to get rid of him. He would boast about how wealthy he was in South Africa. He even asked me to marry him and go to South Africa with him.”
When she gave him a lift home following a staff Christmas party in 2004, his advances became more threatening. Miss Grint said: “He kept pulling the steering wheel to try and get me to pull in at the side of the road. It was dangerous. But he just wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Peter Walsh, chief executive of the charity Action against Medical Accidents, said the case raised “profoundly disturbing” questions. “This is a graphic example of why regulatory procedures need to be tightened up; in this case the GMC had a clear opportunity but didn’t take it,” he said. “Whether or not they had co-operation from authorities overseas, the clear threat to patient safety should have trumped everything else.”
The GMC tightened its rules in 2005, so that every doctor coming here from outside Europe has to present a certificate of good practice, including details of any actions taken by regulators in the previous five years. But the organisation’s own records disclose that there are more than 50,000 foreign doctors registered to work who came to Britain before the changes. They are not being checked retrospectively.
Mr Dickson insisted the GMC was as robust as it could be in ensuring that doctors joining the register were fit to practise, but said it was reliant on foreign regulators sharing information. He added: “The GMC tells other regulators across the world when we take action against a doctor, but others do not always share this vital information with us.”
Since 2007, Saadien-Raad – who changed his name in 2009 to Dr Paul Fitzgerald – has been living in a secure housing development in Cape Town. At his home a security guard said that a stream of people had come looking for the doctor since he and a female companion left suddenly four months ago, including the local equivalent of a bailiff.
“Plenty of people have been here, looking for that man,” the guard said. “The girlfriend said they were moving to the UK. They certainly left in a hurry.”
Lung transplant patient dies after ‘height error’ sees surgeons force oversized organ into her chest
A lung transplant patient died after medical staff made a mistake in recording the height of the donor – and then failed to report the matter to the coroner.
A specialist nurse fed the wrong figure into the NHS transplant service’s computer system, leading surgeons to force an organ which was too big for the patient into her chest.
The mistake happened at Harefield Hospital in West London, where a similar incident in 2007 was followed by a two-year period in which managers took no action to suspend the consultant involved. During that time the consultant bungled a heart bypass on an elderly man who bled to death and then lied to the patient’s family. After the latest mistake, transplant service officials were told the death had been referred to the coroner but that he had decided not to hold an inquest.
They were also assured the woman’s family had refused permission for a post-mortem examination.
But it later turned out the coroner had not been informed, although he should have been as an inquiry concluded the death was caused by human error.
The woman, who was suffering from advanced bronchial disease, underwent a double lung transplant at Harefield last October. She was 151cm tall and the donor’s height was recorded electronically as 156cm. The information was stored on the Electronic Offering System – the computerised organ-matching service run by the NHS Blood and Transplant Service (NHSBT).
The right lung was transplanted successfully but the left one had to be compressed to make it fit. And when a member of the transplant team checked the measurements later, it was discovered that the donor had actually been 165cm tall. After initially making progress, the woman developed pneumonia and died two months later.
NHSBT, which investigated the incident, said in a report: ‘The transplant surgeon considers that the size of the lungs was a significant contributory factor in the patient’s death.’ A doctor who has also served as a coroner told The Mail on Sunday: ‘It is usual for operation-related deaths to be referred to the coroner. But health care professionals are under no professional or legal obligation to do so.’
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: ‘This must have been a terrible experience for the family.
‘When attempts are made to cover up serious incidents like this, public and patient trust hits rock bottom.’
Harefield Hospital would not comment on the case.
Anthony Clarkson, assistant director of organ donation at NHSBT, said the service had offered its sincere condolences to the woman’s family. New checking systems have been introduced and heights are now recorded in both metric and imperial measures.
Neither the surgeon nor the patient in the most recent case has been identified.
Pressure grows for British green tax to be axed to ease burden of soaring fuel bills
Ministers were under pressure last night to ease the burden of hidden green charges on soaring fuel bills.
According to energy regulator Ofgem, the UK’s climate change policies add £100 – or nearly 10 per cent – to a typical household fuel bill.
Consumer groups and MPs say all energy suppliers should be forced to reveal on bills how much hard-pressed families are forced to pay to subsidise green energy and end Britain’s dependence on dirty coal, oil and gas.
Benny Peiser, director of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, called for hidden climate change levies to be slashed. He said: ‘If Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has his way, Britons will be forced to subsidise renewable energy by approximately £100billion in the next 20 years.
‘Electricity prices are likely to double as a direct result. Enough is enough.
‘The Government has to force energy companies to make electricity bills fully transparent so that the ever-increasing level of hidden green taxes are clearly listed for families and households
‘The Government should now consider a complete moratorium on green energy legislation that threatens to impose huge additional costs on all those who are already facing spiralling power bills.’
Last month, former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson warned that the Coalition’s obsession with climate change was damaging Britain’s recovery from recession.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Lord Lawson said: ‘The Government’s highly damaging decarbonisation policy, enshrined in the absurd Climate Change Act, does not have a leg to stand on. It is intended, at massive cost, to be symbolic: To make good David Cameron’s ambition to make his administration “the greenest government ever”.’
His comments came after former Civil Service chief Lord Turnbull accused ministers and officials of pandering to global warming ‘alarmists’ and piling huge, unnecessary costs on ordinary families.
Under the Climate Change Act, the Government is legally bound to cut Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and by 50 per cent by 2025. Ministers want the UK to meet the targets by building 10,000 wind turbines in the next decade.
They also want power companies to install £7billion worth of smart meters in homes to reduce demand, and to create a new generation of nuclear power plants. Most of the cost for the ‘decarbonisation’ is being passed on to consumers through their fuel bills.
None of the hidden climate change charges on bills is a conventional tax paid to the Treasury directly. Instead, they are additional costs passed on by power companies.
They include the Renewable Obligation – a scheme that forces power suppliers to buy a proportion of their power from renewable sources such as wind.
Bills are pushed up further by the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target – which forces energy suppliers to subsidise home insulation and new boilers – and by Feed In Tariffs, which encourage homes to install wind turbines and solar panels by guaranteeing a fixed, high price for electricity they sell to the National Grid.
Consumers also pay more for electricity under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, which forces energy companies and industries to pay for the right to burn fossil fuels.
Climate change levies are expected to be reviewed next week in the Government’s energy White Paper. Labour MP Graham Stringer called for greater transparency. ‘Many of the climate levies on our bills are regressive taxes,’ he said. ‘They are not reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
‘The EU Emissions Trading Scheme is a scam – it just transfers emissions from Britain to China and India where they don’t have to follow the same pollution laws. ‘We are not stopping CO2 and then we have to transport the goods here, emitting even more carbon dioxide. ‘These policies have to be re-examined. And we have to work out why we are the only country in the world that has a legal obligation to cut CO2 by 80 per cent of its 1990 target. We are putting ourselves at a huge disadvantage.’
A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: ‘These levies are about developing new energy sources in the UK so we’re not hostage to the price of imported gas. ‘Put simply, scrapping them would be shooting ourselves in the foot and short-sighted in the extreme.’
The murder of a great comprehensive school
Michael Gove has to persuade the Churches to abandon their blind faith in secular dogma
By Damian Thompson
Four independent schools and one sixth-form college send more of their pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than 2,000 comprehensives and state-run colleges, according to a study by the Sutton Trust. This statistic is being reported by the teaching unions and their media supporters in priggish tones that imply that public schools are up to their old Oxbridge string-pulling games. Actually, the report finds nothing of the sort: although ancient colleges are willing to lower the bar slightly for bright children from deprived backgrounds, most comprehensives don’t come close to meeting the A-level requirements of Oxford and Cambridge.
But, more to the point, they don’t show much inclination to do so, such is the poverty of aspiration instilled in students by their chippy teachers and anti-elitist governing bodies.
Admittedly, a few comprehensives achieve the most rigorous standards: when I was at Oxford, I was always bumping into old boys of the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in west London – clever lads with stellar A-levels and wits sharpened in the pubs of Hammersmith. But I’d be surprised if the Vaughan is still sending many pupils to Oxford in a few years’ time.
For decades, the Left-wing education department of the Catholic Diocese of Westminster, which controls the Vaughan, has been waging a campaign of intellectual vandalism against the school. In the 1980s it tried but failed to close its sixth form. Now its aim is to stop the oversubscribed all-boys school favouring the children of parents who are actively involved in their local Catholic parishes.
Giving preference to committed believers favours the middle classes, says the diocese. This is untrue – but if the Vaughan’s Catholic ethos is weakened, bang goes the discipline that propelled pupils from working-class families into Oxford and Cambridge.
In order to get its way, the diocese has employed a ham-fisted brutality almost worthy of the Spanish Inquisition. The chairman of governors who opposed the change was sacked; so was his successor. Parent governors who supported the traditional system were replaced by stooges including the diocese’s own Lefty director of education, Paul Barber.
And the new chairman of governors? One John O’Donnell, who holds the same post at a mediocre and undersubscribed Catholic girls school in the diocese. Here is a sample of Mr O’Donnell’s prose, taken from an angry letter to the Catholic Herald: “I leave your readers with the question ‘am I lesser Catholic because I chose to be hairdresser than a scholar in an Oxbridge College’.”
The Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, inherited this row. He could have defused it. Instead, he has sided with the diocesan vandals, losing the goodwill of countless Catholic parents in the process. His stance hasn’t impressed defenders of Catholic education in Rome, either: that red hat may take a little longer to arrive than he anticipated.
An intriguing aspect of this affair is the reaction of the Coalition. “I thought you Catholics were supposed to be in favour of rigorous education,” a surprised senior minister told me. So appalled is the Government by the diocese’s tactics that it plans to outlaw the politicised packing of governing bodies – though probably too late to stop the dumbing-down of the Vaughan.
This miserable business shows that Michael Gove isn’t just fighting unions and local authorities. He has to persuade the Churches to abandon their blind faith in secular dogma. We do live in strange times, don’t we?