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RODNEY RIPPER; NHS bosses blasted for failing to stop butcher surgeon who maimed women.

A SURGEON dubbed Rodney the Ripper was left to bungle hundreds of operations on women because Health Service chiefs failed to heed warnings.

Disgraced gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, 62, botched ops on 418 patients, leaving many scarred and maimed for life.

NHS managers were slammed in a report out yesterday following a year-long inquiry into the scandal of the "butcher" consultant who once boasted after seven hysterectomies in a morning that he was "the fastest gynaecologist in the South East".

A powerful culture in which consultants considered themselves "gods" prevented nurses and other medical staff from blowing the whistle on Ledward, the inquiry found.

Senior managers at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, failed to investigate concerns raised by staff and patients.

And "proper and effective leadership in NHS management was lacking", said the report.

Jean Ritchie QC, who led the inquiry, declared: "Rodney Ledward bears the greatest responsibility for the failures in his practice. But we have concluded that better NHS management should have picked up the problems earlier."

Six men claimed their wives died at Ledward's hands after surgery at hospitals in Ashford.

The pounds 200,000-a-year surgeon was struck off the medical register in 1998 after being found guilty of bungling 13 operations on women.

He now faces a criminal investigation by Kent police into allegations that he assaulted patients over 16 years.

Former patients described the consultant as "very dashing, quite the Women's Weekly hero".

The report said: "He was flamboyant, a colourful character with bow tie, black jacket and pinstripe trousers, and a liking of fast cars."

Sometimes, he turned up in hospital wards wearing riding clothes. One private patient said that in 1986 she had a hysterectomy. Ledward told her there would be minimal scarring but an abscess developed and she was left with a large flap of skin and an unsightly scar.

She told the inquiry the surgeon came to see her twice in hospital wearing riding clothes, a button hole and carrying a whip. He said she was "unlucky".

The inquiry heard accusations that Ledward:

-PRESSURED NHS patients to become private patients and asked them to bring cash when they were admitted for surgery;

-WAS UNAVAILABLE as a patient lay bleeding and dangerous ill in bed;

-RUSHED his clinic, ward rounds and surgery - and performed hysterectomies in 15 minutes when many surgeons considered they should take two hours.

One woman who died under Ledward's care was pregnant and had high blood pressure when she was admitted to the William Harvey Hospital.

After three weeks her condition deteriorated but the consultant decided she should not have her baby until the following week.

Later that day she deteriorated further and a junior doctor decided she needed an emergency Caesarean section.

But after giving birth she had a fatal heart attack. When her husband saw Ledward, the surgeon told him: "These things do happen".

The inquiry found that there were powerful inhibitions against "telling tales" against doctors.

Senior members of the profession created a "climate of fear and retribution" and consultants who gave evidence against Ledward before the General Medical Council were warned by "eminent colleagues" that they would be shunned if the action failed.

Among its major recommendations, the report called for an "open culture" to allow doctors, nurses and patients to "blow the whistle" on incompetent colleagues on a confidential hotline.

Health Minister John Denham said last night: "We believe the Ritchie Report provides strong backing for the measures we have already taken to do everything possible to prevent, detect and take action against doctors like Rodney Ledward."

The Minister added that the Government wants to change the law to ensure that disciplinary action against doctors can be taken swiftly.

He added: "It is a disgrace that Mr Ledward was allowed to continue unchecked for so long.

"No one was prepared to take charge when problems came to light and nothing effective was done in response to those who did raise the alarm."

Ledward, who failed to attend the inquiry, has a luxury home in County Cork but is thought to be at his villa in Spain. He is believed to have cancer of the pancreas.

Told that he may be dying, one of his victims, 58-year-old Maureen Goldingay, said: "I wouldn't wish illness on anyone, but maybe now he knows what it is like to suffer."

The wealthy consultant bought his bungalow outside the village of Dromahane in the Irish republic a year ago.

He lived like an English gent, enjoying horse-racing, golf and yachting, and driving a Range Rover and classic sports car.

Ledward lived alone but was often seen at expensive restaurants in the company of attractive younger women.

One local said: "It's hard to believe that the man we met is the same one who earned the name The Butcher.

"We don't want him back here in our community."

David Astley, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "Our sympathy and thoughts are with the women who suffered as a result of Rodney Ledward's practice.

"We apologise to all these women and pledge our commitment to provide them with the high quality care and support they may need and have the right to expect."

But British Medical Association chairman Dr Ian Bogle dismissed claims that consultants have a "god complex," and joked: "That hasn't happened since Doctor In The House came across our screens.

"The vast majority of consultants work as part of a team. The god-like feature has gone out of medicine these last 30 or 40 years."

But the formidable figure of Doctor In The House surgeon Sir Lancelot Spratt - feared by patients and loathed by junior doctors - lingers on.

Ex-patient Elaine Ralph, 32, who is suing the NHS over her treatment by Ledward, said: "The report was right to say consultants were treated like gods."

Elaine, manager of the George Inn, Bethersden, Kent, added: "Ledward was an arrogant man - blase, brash and strutting around like a little tin god."

He deserves pain of cancerJean Brett, 51WHEN Rodney Ledward told Jean Brett he was booking her in for a hysterectomy he airily announced: "We are going to take away the nursery and leave the playground."

It was the only time they met before her operation, and he didn't examine her.

Despite the doctor's arrogant manner, Mrs Brett was filled with relief.

She said: "He told me I had had a family so I didn't need the equipment any more.

"But I could have kissed his feet because I had endured so much pain and suffering for two years and I thought it would all be over."

He offered to treat her as a private patient the following week for pounds 5,000, but she could not afford it and waited another 10 months in pain.

Following the operation on May 3, 1995, the grandmother suffers haemorrhaging and bladder and bowel problems.

She is in constant pain, is unable to have sex with husband James, 74, and is scarred.

Mrs Brett said: "He botched it. I was left with adhesions. Muscles were cut in the wrong places and he had cut part of the cervix.

"If Ledward really has cancer, he deserves it - God pays his dues in more ways than one."Christine Laverty, 46CHRISTINE Laverty suffered permanent period pains for more than a year before her first visit to Ledward in 1993.

He gave her pills but her agony went on and - in 1996 - Ledward performed a hysterectomy on the mother-of-three at St Saviour's in Hythe, Kent.

He left her with a cut urethra, damaged bladder and peritonitis and - after her condition deteriorated dangerously - she was transferred to William Harvey Hospital.

Only an emergency bladder operation performed by a different doctor saved her life.

She said: "They could not get hold of Ledward - he had turned his mobile off.

"To this day, I don't know why he performed the operation so badly. He has never been to see me and never apologised."Denise Champion, 48AN inexperienced junior doctor was left to removed Denise Champion's ovaries by Ledward in 1993.

After the operation she was continually sick and worried husband Stephen called their GP to their home in Folkestone, Kent.

The doctor sent her back to the William Harvey, where, she said: "Something exploded inside my stomach. They discovered over 38 abscesses." Mrs Champion was rushed into theatre and was on a life-support machine for eight days. She has since had two more corrective operations

She said: "This is all Ledward. He's ruined my life. The junior doctor just opened me up and didn't know what he was doing."
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Author:Harnold@mirrorcouk, Harry Arnold
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 2, 2000
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