MPs join the call to suspend gallbladder surgeon

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, Norwich MP Clive Lewis and Camilo Valero (inset)

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman (L) and Norwich MP Clive Lewis (R) have called for the suspension of surgeon Camilo Valero (inset) - Credit: Archant

Two MPs have called for the suspension of a surgeon who mutilated several patients in a week, as it emerged he was told how badly he had damaged one patient four days before he went on to make the same mistake on another.

It comes after this newspaper told how abdominal surgeon Camilo Valero, 43, botched the gallbladder operations of Paul Tooth, 64, and Lucy Wilson, 33, who have horrific life-changing injuries and are asking why he is still operating unsupervised at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

Norwich MP Clive Lewis demanded the NNUH apply the “precautionary principle” to prevent any other patients coming to harm, while mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said it was “surely right” Mr Valero be suspended pending the outcome of an investigation.

The hospital has apologised and admitted liability, and Mr Valero is under investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC), but he has not been suspended and continues to operate unsupervised except in the case of laparoscopic gallbladder surgeries.

Surgeon Camilo Valero, 43,  has not been suspended

Surgeon Camilo Valero, 43, has not been suspended despite the botched operations - Credit: Archant

Mr Tooth, of Dereham, said he was left ‘mutilated’ by the surgery, and needs tubes out of his abdomen and up his nose to recycle bile for six hours a day, while Mrs Wilson, who lives in Norwich, is now incontinent and in chronic pain after Mr Valero wrongly sliced away their bile ducts and parts of their livers, rather than just taking out their gallbladders. 

Their cases, and one other, prompted the NNUH to order ‘root cause analysis’ reports on three surgeries in five days by Mr Valero last January. This newspaper understands the third patient had post-operative complications.

But we can now reveal that four days before Mr Valero butchered Paul Tooth’s bile duct beyond repair, he was told by a fellow doctor he had done the same thing to Mrs Wilson’s - but there was a “miscommunication” between the two.

Paul Tooth, 64, has to recycle bile through tubes after his botched surgery at the NNUH

Paul Tooth, 64, has to recycle bile through tubes after his botched surgery at the NNUH - Credit: Joel Adams

Lucy Wilson went under the knife on January 22, 2020, and according to the hospital’s Root Cause Analysis report, by the following morning “it became clear there had been a biliary injury with large volumes of bile draining”.

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So doctors used a tiny camera on a tube - an endoscope - to navigate through the bile duct to check it was okay, but the procedure could not be completed as expected because the bile duct had been severed.

The report states: “Despite a conversation between Surgeon B [Valero] and Gastroenterologist A straight after the procedure, the surgical team regarded the result as a ‘failed ERCP’ rather than appreciating the fact that the procedure had been successful and had indeed diagnosed complete transection of the bile duct.”

It concludes: “There appears to have been a miscommunication between Surgeon B [Valero] and Gastroenterologist A regarding the result of the ERCP.”

Four days after Lucy Wilson’s endoscopy Mr Valero, who trained in Spain, made the same mistake on Paul Tooth, which in the case of the older patient had even more devastating results.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Archant

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman. Picture: Archant - Credit: Ian Burt

Mr Freeman said: “It is absolutely right that the GMC are conducting an urgent review - and surely right that the surgeon be suspended from carrying out surgery whilst the review is conducted.  

“Accidents happen.  But public trust is key and  patients have a right to expect the highest professional standards of care and precaution in cases of serious surgical harm like this”.

Mr Lewis said: "Why on earth have they not applied the precautionary principle when there is so much that's questionable and potentially dangerous?

"Why are they going to such lengths to keep this doctor surgeon working, when the sensible thing to do would be to stop him working until the outcome of the GMC investigation? That would make absolutely sure that no other people run the risk of this happening to them."

Clive Lewis, a vice-chair of an inquiry into the governments response to Covid-19, has said the UK h

Norwich MP Clive Lewis said the "precautionary principle" should apply - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Last week medical director Erika Denton said the two cases were extremely difficult specific incidents and defended the decision not to suspend Mr Valero, saying no other aspects of his clinical practice are in doubt and that she would trust her colleague to operate on her own children. 

The Trust has improved its practices and is assisting the GMC with its enquiries.

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