Carly Duffy, 45, who was referred for surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital in Roundhay for a shoulder injury via the NHS ‘Choose and Book’ system, recalls her first meeting with Mr Walsh as a positive experience.
A few weeks later, Mrs Duffy returned to the hospital for her procedure and before the surgery signed consent forms. When she left hospital later that day, she remembers being in intense pain, but believed it was only to be expected after an operation.
Mrs Duffy said: “When I got home I tried to sleep but the pain was too intense. I remember sitting on the ottoman at the bottom of my bed rocking in agony with the pain moving from my shoulder to my neck and back. In the end, my husband drove to the shop and got me some waterproof dressings and I just lay in a hot bath all night for some relief.”
Two weeks later, and still in pain, Mrs Duffy returned to the hospital for a follow-up appointment only to be told that it had been cancelled and that Mr Walsh no longer worked there. Although surprised and frustrated, there was little she could do other than book another appointment a week later with a new surgeon, Mr Hackney.
At the appointment with Mr Hackney she was informed that her medical notes had disappeared along with her surgeon.
She said: “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing - I was aghast. To make matters worse, when Mr Hackney took a look at me, he came to the conclusion very quickly that, while I had been operated on, the surgery I signed the consent forms for - and believed that I had received - hadn’t actually taken place at all.”
During the appointment with Mr Hackney, Mrs Duffy underwent further X-rays and scans, received a steroid injection for her pain and was booked in for further surgery to right the wrongs of the initial procedure. That further operation took place just weeks before her wedding, which meant her scars are visible in her wedding photos and serve as a harsh reminder of what happened.
Looking back, Mrs Duffy finds it hard to believe Spire’s conduct. She said: “I’ve since found out that Mr Walsh was already under investigation when I had my surgery. In fact, my operation took place on his last working day at Spire. I cannot believe they let him proceed when they already knew there was cause for concern. I’m a paramedic and if I was ever under any sort of investigation, I would be removed from patient contact immediately. I do not understand how and why they let him continue to practice.”
Mr Walsh has since been sacked by Spire Healthcare and has been reported to the General Medical Council after it was found that a number of colleagues and patients had made complaints about his work. He is now retired and no longer licensed to practise as a doctor.
She turned to medical negligence experts Thompsons Solicitors for legal support. Thompsons Solicitors is currently supporting 11 people in legal claims after suffering negligence at the hands of Mr Walsh, and Mrs Duffy’s case is the first to be settled by the firm.
Lyndsay Gibbons, a specialist in medical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors who represented Mrs Duffy, said: “It is shocking that a surgeon who was under investigation was still allowed to perform major surgery.
“The bottom line with private hospitals like Spire is that they don’t have the same rules and standards as the NHS. Despite getting NHS funding for operations like Mrs Duffy’s Spire won't have had a multi-disciplinary team in place for that operation and aren’t subject to the same checks and oversights that would be in place if that operation had happened on the NHS. And that’s just wrong.”
In April, Spire was finedd £5,000 at Leeds Magistrates Court for delaying informing four of Mr Walsh's patients about concerns in their care following his suspension in 2018.
The four all suffered prolonged pain and needed further surgery after being treated at Spire Leeds by upper limb orthopaedic consultant Mr Walsh.
Spire Healthcare Ltd was also ordered to pay nearly £15,000 costs after pleading guilty to failing to comply with duty of candour obligations in what the Care Quality Commssion said was the first prosecution of its kind against an independent provider.
The four were treated by Mr Walsh up until 2017, when concerns were raised with the hospital by Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, several physiotherapists and another surgeon, the CQC said.
Spire then undertook a review of a number of Mr Walsh’s cases. These cases were also reviewed by an independent surgeon in May and June 2018.
In November 2018, Spire issued letters to the four informing them of concerns identified in respect of their care and treatment.
The CQC, which brought the prosecution, said Spire was aware that it was a notifiable safety incident at least several months before the letters were issued.
Head of hospital inspection Sarah Dronsfield said the patients “neither received a prompt apology nor full explanation for the poor care they received”, adding: “Spire Hospital Leeds was not transparent or open with regards to what happened.”
Group clinical director Alison Dickinson issued another apology to the four patients for the delay in notifying them and for the care they received in 2017/18.
She said: “We fell short of the requirements regarding duty of candour as well as the high standards that we set for ourselves and that patients should be able to expect from us.
"We have reflected carefully on the lessons we can learn and we have invested significantly in training, and strengthened our systems in our hospitals for ensuring that patients are informed when something goes wrong, in a transparent and timely way."