A full public inquiry will be held into the Eljamel scandal in a huge victory for the disgraced former Dundee surgeon’s victims.
First Minister Humza Yousaf confirmed there will be a probe into the fiasco which has engulfed NHS Tayside, hours after The Courier revealed the SNP chief was set for a U-turn.
Campaigners who were harmed by the bungling medic have been fighting for a full public inquiry into his actions for more than eight years.
The Scottish Government finally relented to their demands after a bombshell report last week uncovered severe failings by NHS Tayside.
‘I feel vindicated’
Today Eljamel’s victims said they felt vindicated that a public inquiry was announced, but were angry they were forced to fight for so long.
Lead campaigner Pat Kelly, who suffered life-changing injuries due to the surgeon, told us: “I feel vindicated.
“Something that should have happened years ago is happening now.
“This went to the wire. I believe he’s now throwing NHS Tayside under the bus.”
Mr Kelly added: “This is the worst ever NHS scandal in Scotland. I lost everything through Eljamel.”
Campaigner Jules Rose, from Kinross, said it should not have taken so long.
“I welcome the progress, however it shouldn’t have taken the efforts that it took from a group of patients who to this day remain affected by the harm caused by such levels of negligence,” she said.
Ms Rose had a tear duct removed by Eljamel instead of a brain tumour.
Speaking in parliament, Mr Yousaf said: “The cabinet secretary has considered the latest report on NHS Tayside, and we have collectively concluded this requires investigation independent of both the board and indeed of the Scottish Government, and I agree with that.”
But Dundee Labour MSP Michael Marra – who asked the SNP leader whether an inquiry will go ahead – said: “It should have taken us so long to here.
“This inquiry has been wrung out of the government like blood from a stone by Jules Rose, Pat Kelly, and the many victims who were weeping outside this parliament yesterday.”
Mr Yousaf replied: “Both the health secretary and I have always said that a public inquiry has not been ruled out.”
The Courier revealed last week Eljamel was able to continue botching operations for six months when he was put under light-touch supervision instead of being suspended in 2013.
The report also revealed health board bosses were aware of complaints about his behaviour as early as 2011 – a significant shift in NHS Tayside’s timeline.
Michael Matheson under pressure
As the scandal escalated even further, we revealed the decision over whether to hold an inquiry was discussed at a Scottish Government cabinet meeting this week.
Patient representatives were invited to a private meeting with SNP Health Secretary Michael Matheson this morning ahead of his statement in parliament.
In his statement this afternoon, Mr Matheson said he was “not at first persuaded” that only a public inquiry would get key answers for patients.
However, the review which exposed NHS Tayside’s failings has now changed his mind.
He said: “I was of the view that there were other, potentially faster and more individually responsive ways to seek to find the answers to what they were looking for.
“After considering the findings of the due diligence review, my view has significantly changed.”
What happens next?
Mr Matheson said a public inquiry will be a “lengthy process” once it begins.
He said health officials will begin making the “necessary arrangements” and he will update parliament as progress is made.
Mr Matheson added an independent review will still go ahead, so patients can look at their own individual cases to see what went wrong.
On Wednesday, campaigners ramped up their inquiry demands with a gory protest outside Holyrood in a final push for the government to listen.
They were given a major boost by the support of Perthshire MSP Jim Fairlie, the first SNP politician to formally back a full inquiry.
For years senior SNP figures refused to grant a public probe into the scandal, instead pushing alternative approaches which did not satisfy victims.
Earlier this year Mr Yousaf and Mr Matheson outlined plans for an independent review, which differs from a public inquiry.
But patients warned anything which fell short of a full inquiry would not compel key witnesses to appear and give evidence under oath.
In 2015, Dundee-based Deputy First Minister Shona Robison – then health secretary – first rejected the inquiry calls from Eljamel’s victims.
The Scottish Government said at the time that NHS Tayside had put in place necessary precautions to prevent a repeat of the long-running fiasco.