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Saturday 29th April 2017

Whistle-blower forced to resign

10th August 2006

Dr Russell Emerson, skin cancer lead for the Sussex Cancer Network, has been forced to resign a county-wide appointment after whistle-blowing on a referral management scheme that jeopardised patients.

Dr Emerson said Adur, Arun and Worthing Primary Care Trust (AAW PCT) threatened his trust when he raised the alarm over interception of referrals to dermatology consultants. Dr Emerson felt the problem of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment of melanomas by GPs would be exacerbated by the scheme.

Worthing consultants had contacted Dr Emerson in 2005 regarding inappropriate treatment of skin cancer patients which was already a problem in the area, saying that further unqualified triage would not help; seven examples were given, including five malignant melanomas. He found all had been wrongly handled by GPs, including one incomplete excision; investigating the training of the triage GPs, Dr Emerson found none had experience or diplomas in dermatology, and no formal protocols and pathways had been agreed.

Dr Emerson claims the PCT subsequently threatened to stop referring skin cancer patients to his trust if he remained in his appointed role as skin cancer lead which threatened the income of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, resulting in the trust asking him to resign as skin cancer lead.

The trust's surgical director, Mr Phil Thomas, said the threat 'was not made in writing', acknowledging that Dr Emerson had been asked to resign because the PCT indicated his position would 'affect its confidence' in commissioning from the trust.

Brian Hughes, a director at AAW PCT, denied the threat, though admitting that mismanagement and misdiagnosis of melanoma by GPs was a problem, he said extra funding for specialist services was 'against Government policy'.

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