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Professor Derek McMinn, orthopaedic surgeon: putting profit above patient safety?

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World renowned hip and knee expert, Professor Derek McMinn, who invented a hip treatment used on tennis star Sir Andy Murray, has been suspended from a private hospital in Birmingham along with two anaesthetists after being accused of putting profit before patient safety.

An investigation has found that McMinn and the two anaesthetists, Imran Ahmed and Gauhar Sharih, prolonged the period of sedation to the point where the patient’s blood pressure fell to a dangerously low level and risked long term brain damage. The unsafe practice was carried out by all three doctors in order to allow McMinn to carry out near simultaneous procedures on two patients.

The investigation also highlighted concerns over the prolonged time between sedation and the start of surgery, with one patient being subjected to prolonged anaesthesia for over 1 hour and 40 minutes. There was also mention of another patient whose operation was paused so that McMinn began a procedure on another patient. Expert anaesthetist Dr Dhushyanthan Kumar of Coventry’s University Hospital, who carried out the investigation, stated that to see these delays happen repeatedly over time, indicated that it was part of the anaesthetic and surgical plan.

Dr Kumar said: “It can be argued as self-evident that starting an anaesthetic when the surgeon has not yet started surgery on the previous case is not in the patient’s best interest. Again, whilst not written in a national protocol, expected practice in most hospitals requires the anaesthetist to time induction such as to give the patient the minimum of time exposed to the risks of anaesthesia….It appears to be putting income before patient safety or the best interests of the individual patient.

The General Medical Council declined to answer any questions about the surgical actions of McMinn and the two anaesthetists. McMinn, who declined to comment, is under investigation by the watchdog but remains licensed to practise.

McMinn is also the centre of a further scandal relating to him having allegedly collected and stored body parts from his patients for over 25 years. In a leaked report from BMI Healthcare, which ran the Edgbaston Hospital until June 2020 when Circle Health Group took it over, McMinn had hoarded more than 5,000 bone samples and is alleged to have kept some of the bones at his farmhouse in Worcestershire. In doing so he breached the Human Tissue Act, which prohibits the removing, storing or using of human tissue without appropriate consent. 

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) have stated that following an instigation it had made a referral to police. The General Medical Council (GMC) is also aware of this matter.

Circle Health Group said the "historic issues have all been reported to the appropriate authorities", it would "co-operate closely with regulators" and "recommendations and learnings" had been made to staff.

Kashmir Uppal, a partner specialising in cases relating to rogue surgeons, said: “it is a matter of great public concern that this appears to be another example of a doctor in the private sector, profiteering and exploiting people, who are vulnerable by virtue of the patient definition. Clearly there have been failings in the clinical governance and regulation of the private sector and another reason why the recommendations of the Paterson Inquiry need to be implemented immediately. Public confidence in the private sector needs to be restored and that is in the best interest of the patient and the private sector, who are dependent on private income.”

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