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“Cloak of secrecy” claims over Eljamel probe

Sam Eljamel.
Sam Eljamel.

The Information Commissioner (ICO) has been urged to lift a “cloak of secrecy” over a probe into a former Tayside surgeon.

Professor Muftah Salem Eljamel was being investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) after being suspended in 2014 after a patient underwent surgery on the wrong spinal disc.

Mr Eljamel, from Newport in Fife, relinquished his licence to practice ahead of the hearing in August and the retrospective investigation by the GMC subsequently collapsed.

Patrick Kelly from Dundee has been fighting for a public inquiry after claiming he was a victim of a botched operation from Mr Eljamel following major back surgery in 2007.

Mr Kelly asked the GMC under freedom of information to disclose the number of complaints that had led to the interim conditions on his registration.

However it was refused but Mr Kelly then asked the ICO to overturn the decision but they have now thrown out the request because it would “not be fair” to Mr Eljamel.

He was told Mr Eljamel “would be distressed” if the information was released which has left Mr Kelly demanding what he describes as a “cloak of secrecy” be lifted.

Mr Kelly said: “I am absolutely furious with the response from the ICO.

“Again they, with full vigour, uphold the rights of Sam Eljamel while the rest of us shuffle around in the dark trying to get answers.

“For the life on me I cannot see what harm it would do to release these answers unless they don’t want to give us the answers because it’s so embarrassing to them.

“But worse still is when the ICO states in their response to me ‘that Professor Eljamel may experience a degree of distress if the GMC was to confirm or deny it held further information about any other complaints about him’.

“Again in another line from the ICO it states the Commissioner ‘also considers that Professor Eljamel may well be distressed if this information was confirmed or denied’.

“What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act when it is more concerned with the rights of an individual who himself has caused so much misery and distress?”

The commissioner considered it was “reasonable to assume” that Mr Eljamel “would be distressed” if the information was to be released.

Ninewells Hospital
Ninewells Hospital

In response the ICO stated: “On the basis of its arguments concerning Professor Eljamel’s expectations, the GMC says that it believes that the details of the number of complaints that the lOT considered would constitute a breach of the first data protection principle, because disclosing this information would not be fair to him.

“Based on what the GMC has told him about its complaints processes, the Commissioner is prepared to accept that Professor Eljamel would not expect information on the number of complaints that led to the interim conditions on his registration to be published.

“The Commissioner also considers that Professor Eljamel may well be distressed if this information was released.

“He therefore considers that the GMC is correct when it says that it would be unfair to release this information and a breach of the first data protection principle.”

Many people came forward to say they were left with long-term health difficulties after surgery by Mr Eljamel following his interim suspension from Ninewells Hospital.

Mr Eljamel was unable to be reached for comment.

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