Royal Navy surgeon suspended after rogue operation on boy's genitals at Derriford Hospital

A decorated military surgeon who operated on a 12-year-old's genitals without consent while carrying out a hernia procedure at Derriford Hospital has been suspended for six months.

Commander Anthony Lambert told the boy's parents he'd done it without consulting them because he was 'a bit of a nosey t***' and noticed it 'didn't look normal'. The 'extremely senior and respected practitioner' - who served in the Royal Navy for 36 years and reached the rank of Surgeon Commander - had been performing an umbilical hernia repair on the child on April 20, 2016 at Derriford.

However, while the boy was unconscious under general anaesthetic, the tribunal heard he "undertook a freeing of preputial adhesions on Patient A’s penis without the knowledge or consent of either Patient A or his parents, and that his language when informing them of what he had done was inappropriate."


Three days later mother of the boy submitted a complaint, stating that he had carried out the operation on the boy's gentials without her or her husband's knowledge or consent.

The tribunal heard that Cdr Lambert's inappropriate comment to the boy and his mother came from his explanation as to why he carried out the procedure, namely that he had said: "…because I am a bit of a nosey t*** I noticed that [Patient A]’s penis did not look quite normal…"

The tribunal noted that when interviewed, Cdr Lambert had said this was "the first time in 16 years I've had a complaint". However, the hearing was told he had been investigated in 2014 for "expletive language on the Children’s High Dependency Unit in front of the nursing staff, the patients and the patients parents".

The tribunal also heard that the impact of the surgery on the boy at the time and "still impacts him now". The tribunal chair was told the "psychological effects have been such that it has damaged his trust in the medical profession."

The tribunal heard that another complaint by a Foundation Year 1 trainee working with Cdr Lambert was submitted to the hospital on October 20, 2018 in relation to his conduct at the Trust.

The tribunal heard Cdr Lambert - who was awarded an OBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list for his charitable work - had admitted making comments which were considered 'foul and abusive', 'aggressive and intimidating', 'bullying in nature and derogatory' towards 'patients, other healthcare professionals and women' which 'deterred other healthcare professionals from approaching'" him.

Paul Williams, counsel, told the tribunal that Cdr Lambert’s actions "would be viewed as deplorable by fellow members of the profession both in relation to Patient A [the boy] and the schedule 1 allegations". He added that "members of the public would be shocked to learn of such behaviour and that Mr Lambert’s actions have brought the medical profession into disrepute and therefore amount to serious misconduct."

Surgeon Commander Anthony Lambert
Surgeon Commander Anthony Lambert

He said that the "mere passage of time does not remediate the seriousness of the allegations and that it was fair comment to suggest that his insight was still not fully developed, that he is not rehabilitated, has not fully remediated his actions and there remains a risk of repetition if he is in a clinical setting". He noted that Cdr Lambert had now retired but added that there "remains a risk that Mr Lambert can choose to return to practice, and the risk of repetition arising from his incomplete insight and reflection should lead the Tribunal to conclude that Mr Lambert is currently impaired."

James Leonard KC, speaking on behalf of Cdr Lambert, said his client "devastated by the consequences of his actions even though they were clinically indicated and carried out with the best of intentions". He also noted that the incident took place eight years ago, that the General Medical Council was aware of it and what was admitted in 2016 and had taken no action. He also noted that Cdr Lambert apologised at the time.

He said that with regard to Cdr Lambert's use of language and behaviour towards patients and colleagues, he "remains mortified that he caused the individuals concerned to feel as they did." He added that Cdr Lambert had "only ever sought to teach, encourage learning and strive for excellence in his clinical practice" and he "remains very distressed that his actions have discouraged any of those things based on the way his behaviour was perceived."

He explained that the background to this 'intemperate behaviour' was the stress suffered as part of his deployment to combat zones.

The panel concluded that the decision to complete the examination and procedure 'contrary to the clear expressions of no consent' was aggravated by Patient A's young age.

In addition, the panel noted that Cdr Lambert "made very limited attempts to find Patient A's parents after he noticed the abnormality of his penis, and although he entered the waiting room, he did not call their name."

They added that Cdr Lambert was an 'extremely senior and respected practitioner' and this had been a 'single incident in a long and distinguished career'.

However, they continued: "The tribunal considered that members of the medical profession would find the act of a doctor operating on a child without any form of consent, or following an express refusal of consent to be deplorable. It determined that such actions would bring the medical profession into disrepute.

"It was of the view that the impact it had on Patient A, or some similar adverse outcome, was a foreseeable potential result of an open breach of trust."

They concluded: "This misconduct was serious - obtaining consent before carrying out a procedure or physical investigation on a patient is a fundamental tenet of the medical profession.

"The Tribunal reminded itself that Cdr Lambert was refused consent by Patient A and his parents on two separate occasions. It noted that the procedure was not urgent and [Cdr] Lambert could have waited to ensure that he obtained parental consent without posing any risk to the patient."

They added that most doctors in similar circumstances would understand the imperative not to carry out the procedure, and would view his actions as 'a deplorable breach of trust fundamental to the medical profession to obtain consent before operating on a patient'.

They therefore concluded it amounted to serious misconduct - and he was suspended for six months.

In 2017 PlymouthLive reported how in a letter of apology, Cdr Lambert said: "Why I did not call your name when I left theatre to find you, I do not know," he told the family. I unreservedly apologise for the short-fallings in the care I provided to your son."

Dr Phil Hughes, medical director for Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, sent a letter to the family which said the operation "should not have happened without consent" He said an "organisational development intervention" will be put in place to ensure it does not happen again.

After the news broke about the incident a number of people took to social media to defend Cdr Lambert for his work and surgery carried out on others. PlymouthLive reported at the time how one man said: "This man is amazing at his job he goes above and beyond just like he did in this case... if he had spoken to the parents they hopefully would have told him to go ahead [...]”.

Others added: "One of most the genuine, trustworthy, and committed men I know.... lives and breathes his work. So highly regarded by so many people.... saved so many lives, put his own life at risk in some of the worst war zones on the planet."

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