Brave mum speaks out over Derbyshire surgeon whose work is under investigation

A patient treated by a Derbyshire surgeon whose work is under investigation believes that if authorities had acted when she first raised concerns about him, hundreds of women may have been saved from harm.

By Eddie Bisknell, Local Democracy Service
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 9:43 am

Pauline Hill was treated at Chesterfield Royal Hospital by Dr Daniel Hay in 2003, far outside the scope of the current investigation into his practice, which focuses on 2015 to 2018.

Dr Hay, who lives near Alfreton and has now relinquished his medical licence, had been working as a specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology on rotation across the “Mid Trent” area when he took on the care of Mrs Hill.

Mum-of-four Mrs Hill told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that she felt that it was vital to tell her story given the number of women who are said to have suffered at Dr Hay’s hands.

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However, she told the LDRS that she does feel a sense of “guilt” over whether there was anything more she could have done at the time to raise red flags and set off alarm bells about Dr Hay.

Mrs Hill complained about her treatment by him at the time to the former Healthcare Commission (which has now been merged into the Care and Quality Commission) and the General Medical Council (GMC).

However, in 2005 the commission claimed much of Mrs Hill’s claims were “unsubstantiated” and could not find “any issue” that contravened health regulations, and said she could take her claim to the GMC.

The GMC rejected her claim with “no further action” to be taken in 2005 and her request for a review was quashed in 2007, saying it did not feel Dr Hay’s fitness to practice was “impaired to a degree to justify action”.

A further request to review her complaint was rejected by the GMC in 2021, claiming it cannot reopen a review decision if it has been made more than two years ago unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Mrs Hill told the LDRS: “When I found out about the current investigation I felt really guilty. But all I can think is that if they (the GMC) had listened, this wouldn’t have happened.

“I do feel guilty because I think about how, well what if we had done more at the time, could I not have done more?

“I was shocked but I was also upset (on finding out about the current Hay investigation). All those ladies, it wouldn’t have happened if they (the GMC) had done what they should have done 20 years ago, they would not have suffered.

“We feel bad that we didn’t do enough to stop it, but what can you do when you feel nobody will listen?

“I fear there is a culture here of covering things up. But it is going to be like opening a can of worms.

“What I do believe is that if this was to do with men and something to do with their balls, something would have been done a lot sooner.

“I am telling the truth and unless I do that, I am not going to stop him (Hay).”

Mrs Hill also claims that Dr Hay “did not work alone” and that other people and authorities will have been and will be aware of his potential failings and share some of the responsibility.

Mrs Hill’s husband, Malcolm, told the LDRS: “If they (the GMC) had said he wasn’t fit for practice then, all those women over the last 20 years wouldn’t have been harmed, and these organisations would not have to be paying out all this money in compensation too.

“It is a nightmare for us, reliving it. You put it to the back of your mind. But if the GMC had listened then, these women wouldn’t have suffered. They would have been spared.”

Mrs Hill was first referred to Dr Hay in early 2003 at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, due to endometriosis (a painful condition of the womb).

She claims Dr Hay was “insistent” that she should have a hysterectomy (womb removal), but she is adamant that she did not want one. She wanted a big family and had been considering having another child.

Mrs Hill said she had adhesions (scar tissue) on her bowel and bladder and worried about a hysterectomy causing further issues.

She eventually consented to a laparoscopy (insertion of a minute camera into the body) to investigate the issues causing her pain. But she claims that when she was being prepped for surgery, she was told she was having a hysterectomy.

Mrs Hill left the hospital in a hurry with her husband. She claims a colleague of Dr Hay’s is said to have rearranged a laparoscopy for Mrs Hill and insisted that he would carry it out, not Dr Hay.

She consented to Dr Hay’s colleague carrying out the procedure, but she claims that when she was taken through to the operating room at Chesterfield Royal, it was Dr Hay who was carrying out the operation.

Following this laparoscopy, Mrs Hill says she was suffering severely and kept haemorrhaging (bleeding).

During a severe haemorrhage at home in late 2003, she passed out and collapsed and was moved to the bath by relatives where she continued to bleed “profusely” while an ambulance was about to be called.

It was arranged for Mrs Hill to be taken to Chesterfield Royal Hospital by car instead, she claims.

Dr Hay is said to have claimed that the haemorrhaging was being caused by overuse of prescribed medication, but Mrs Hill claims she was told the prescribed medication provided via Dr Hay was far too intensive.

She says that after admission to Chesterfield Royal, Dr Hay had Mrs Hill transferred to the Chatsworth Suite, a private non-NHS ward within the hospital, where she claims she was described by staff as “critically ill”.

Mrs Hill claims a colleague of Dr Hay’s discharged her from hospital and arranged for an operation to take place at a hospital in Nottingham, instead of at Chesterfield.

This colleague is said to have carried out corrective surgery to repair work carried out by Dr Hay, but to this day, Mrs Hill claims she is unsure of what was in need of repair and what was carried out – she just knows that neither Dr Hay nor his colleague performed a hysterectomy.

Mrs Hill said “Under his (Dr Hay’s) care my condition deteriorated rapidly and after his care I improved gradually.”

She claimed that the care provided by Dr Hay “left her at death’s door” for two years, due to the impact of the surgery he carried out and the medication he prescribed.

She believes the medication left her with osteoporosis – a health condition that weakens bones – which has seen her suffer many stress fractures including a broken ankle. This has left her unable to keep up a beloved pastime of running for miles every day.

A GMC investigation report from 2007, seen by the LDRS, says: “The records show that Dr Hay felt very clearly that a hysterectomy would be necessary and the patient was unhappy with this.”

The Healthcare Commission report from 2005 says: “There is concern that Dr Hay may have explained Mrs Hill’s clinical needs in such a way that this led Mrs Hill to believe that she was seriously ill and required a hysterectomy as a matter of urgency, thus leading to Mrs Hill feeling pressured into making a choice.”

It references that the relationship between Dr Hay and Mrs Hill had “broken down”.

A GMC spokesperson said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. Where concerns are raised about a doctor and there are a number of similar allegations involving the same doctor, we consider every one of the concerns raised.

“While we are unable to comment on specific cases or complaints unless they proceed to a tribunal hearing, we do investigate all concerns raised with us, and fully consider all relevant evidence before making a decision on the complaint.

“Not all complaints meet the threshold for an investigation, and not all investigations meet the test for referral to a tribunal hearing usually because there is no ongoing risk to patients.

“We always provide the full reasons for our decisions to not proceed with a complaint but recognise this can be very frustrating for patients and their families.”

A spokesperson for University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust (UHDB) deferred to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital (CRH)l trust

A spokesperson for CRH said it was aware of the investigation into Dr Hay that was currently taking place and it awaits the full report to understand its full implications.

The investigation into Dr Hay’s work is being carried out by the UHDB, NHS England and the GMC. Derbyshire police are also “working closely” with the investigation as part of Operation Land Guard, it is understood, although there is no criminal investigation currently.

It centres on concerns over Dr Hay’s practice while he was an obstetrics and gynaecological specialist based at Royal Derby Hospital, including care provided at Ripley Community Hospital.

The investigation so far includes 383 women identified as former patients of his which may have cause for concern.

An interim report published by the trust last May found that there are “major concerns” that 50 women suffered harm and “some concern” that 69 further women suffered harm as a result of his care.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU), which is representing Mr Hay, was approached for comment.

In July last year, the MDU issued the following statement in relation to Dr Hay. It has not commented on the investigations into his work since.

Dr Hay, speaking through the MDU, said: “I apologise to the women affected by the NHS investigation. I am co-operating with the investigation, however, due to my ongoing mental health issues, I ask that you please respect my privacy at this time.”