In October 2013 the MPTS panel (who adjudicate on GMC investigations) found obstetrics and gynaecology consultant Dr Benjamin Ononeze’s fitness to practice impaired due to serious misconduct after his actions “caused patients unnecessary suffering and put them at significant risk”. Conditions were placed on his GMC registration for 12 months to protect public safety and to enable him to undergo retraining.

Dr Ononeze was employed as a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology by the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust from January 2005 onwards. He saw patients at Darlington Memorial Hospital, Bishop Auckland Hospital in Durham, Spire Washington Hospital and BMI Woodlands Hospital in Darlington.

Whilst working at Darlington Memorial Hospital between February and April 2011 Dr Ononeze made serious errors, performed unnecessary procedures and removed organs (for example, ovaries) without consent.

At the MPTS panel hearing in Manchester, Dr Ononeze admitted making serious mistakes during surgery to remove an ovarian cyst which resulted in a hysterectomy and attempting an inappropriate and “traumatic” delivery using forceps and ventouse when a caesarean was required. The mother of the baby in that case required further surgery to repair internal injuries sustained during the emergency caesarean that followed and went on to suffer a cardiac arrest and a stroke.

We act for a number of women concerned about treatment provided by Dr Ononeze including those whose specific cases appear to have been investigated by the GMC. Our clients were understandably shocked and concerned to learn that not only had Dr Ononeze been investigated by the GMC for putting patients at risk, but that their own treatment may have been specifically considered by the MPTS panel.

Although medical records will have been provided to the GMC this appears to have taken place anonymously with no attempt made to contact the patients involved or to inform them of the specific concerns raised regarding their own treatment. This flies in the face of assurances made in response to the Francis report (into substandard care at Stafford Hospital) that NHS organisations would cease to sweep issues under the carpet and instead embrace a new duty of openness and candour. It is disappointing to see that the culture of secrecy and fear in the NHS lives, particularly so where safety is at stake.

Patient safety should always be the top priority. In circumstances like this where concerns have been raised it is both necessary and appropriate that a thorough and open investigation take place. I would call upon the NHS Trust to conduct a full review of all Dr Ononeze’s patients and to identify and contact anyone who may have been treated inappropriately or otherwise put at risk. I consider it vital that all those potentially affected have the opportunity to seek independent legal advice so that their treatment can be appropriately investigated and/or their peace of mind restored.