Leeds Heart Surgeon: GMC Investigating

Gerard Tubb, North of England Correspondent
Leeds Heart Surgeon: GMC Investigating

A surgeon at the centre of a row that closed the Leeds children's heart unit for 11 days last year is now under investigation by the General Medical Council.

Heart surgeon Nihal Weerasena, who has not carried out any operations for 19 months but is still employed by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT), faces unspecified allegations about his fitness to practise.

The GMC told Sky News that its Interim Order Panel, part of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, imposed restrictions on Mr Weerasena following a private hearing held in July and that its investigations continue.

An internal investigation into Mr Weerasena's work at Leeds General Infirmary, including patient outcomes, was one of several issues that led to NHS England dramatically stopping all children's heart surgery at the unit in April 2013.

By agreement with the trust, Mr Weerasena has not conducted any surgery since its investigation was launched in March 2013 into what NHS officials have since described as his "outcome data, use of surgical devices and approach to clinical governance".

The trust's investigation was among what NHS England's medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, called a "constellation" of reasons for the temporary closure of the unit.

He also cited separate concerns about data on children who had died, operations by locum surgeons and claims by some parents about the way they and their children had been treated.

Surgery was allowed to start again after the first of three reports into the unit commissioned by NHS England said it was safe. The third and final report is still awaiting publication.

The interim restrictions on Mr Weerasena mean he must inform the GMC before applying for medical employment abroad, is banned from private practice and must obtain permission before accepting any post that would require GMC registration.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust issued a statement confirming that it continues to employ Mr Weerasena.

"In March 2013 he voluntarily agreed with the Trust to undertake non-clinical duties only," it said.