The First Minister’s insistence that officials offered a contract to a world-acclaimed surgeon to enable him to visit Scotland has been denied… by the world-acclaimed mesh surgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon told Holyrood last week everything possible had been done to bring Dionysios Veronikis to Scotland, including sending him a contract letting him operate on mesh-damaged women and train surgeons.
She addressed MSPs’ concerns after The Sunday Post revealed the surgeon had withdrawn his offer after 18 months of talks.
The surgeon has now told Ms Sturgeon in a letter he withdrew his offer because of a “hostile environment” and insists he received no contract. And he explained why he “lost all faith” in the Scottish Government’s intentions, despite the First Minister and Health Minister Jeane Freeman repeatedly promising officials would do everything to bring him to Scotland. On Wednesday the First Minister told Parliament an NHS recruitment team “wrote to him in March”.
But we can reveal that Dr Veronikis is “unaware of any mail or phone calls”. He told the First Minister in a letter: “The politics of mesh has created a hostile environment for me and my surgical mesh removal skills within the surgical community.”
A fact-finding team, including Scottish mesh surgeons, visited Dr Veronikis in St Louis in a precursor to his trip to Scotland. However, he no longer believes there was any intention to bring him to the UK.
The Scottish Government was talking about issuing a contract before lockdown but only to observe procedures and not operate or train surgeons.
He told the First Minister: “I have operated on several Scottish women with previous full mesh removals and have removed between 10cm to 22cm of mesh. Some of these women are patients of the same surgeons I hosted in St Louis. It is best for the safety of the women of Scotland that I stand by the withdrawal of my offer to come to Scotland.”
MSP Neil Findlay said: “Thanks to no progress by our government and those with a vested interest preventing Dr Veronikis coming here, Scotland has lost the opportunity to have this world-class surgeon helping hundreds of women left in pain because of mesh.”
The Scottish Government said: “In February the Chief Medical Officer invited Dr Veronikis to visit Scotland, and confirmed NHS Scotland would offer a contract. The international recruitment team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde also wrote to him in March. Although responses were not received, the offer of a visit remains open.
“As the First Minister said, she is willing to speak to Dr Veronikis directly if required but the Scottish Government’s commitment remains unchanged.”