A world renowned mesh surgeon has accused the First Minister of misleading parliament as she denied officials had sabotaged his proposed trip to Scotland.
Dr Dionysios Veronikis is furious Nicola Sturgeon suggested there was no progress on arranging his visit – when he was meant to train surgeons and treat women crippled by mesh implants – because he had failed to respond to letters and emails.
He had offered to come to Scotland free of charge to help injured women and help train surgeons in his pioneering technique after a number of Scots were forced to pay more than £20,000 to travel to his hospital in America after surgeons tried but failed to remove implants here. He withdrew his offer after almost 18 months of talk led nowhere.
In parliament last month the First Minister insisted an offer had been made to bring Dr Veronikis to Scotland but he had not responded to officials in Scotland. On June 24, she told MSPs: “The former chief medical officer wrote to him on February 24 and 27, and the international recruitment team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde wrote to him on March 3. We did not get responses to those letters. The interim CMO wrote to Dr Veronikis on April 24 to reiterate that the invitation still stood and that we looked forward to welcoming him when restrictions were lifted.”
Dr Veronikis said: “I have responded promptly and accommodatingly to every email, phone call, texts and all requests made by Scotland. The Chief Medical Officer gave me written instructions to sit tight until the Covid19 situation was managed. My reasonable expectation is that the Scottish officials, with whom I cooperated fully for over a year, would show me courtesy.
“If a single and initial email from an NHS International Recruitment official truly carried such significance as to bring down over a year of cooperation, I would think the sensible approach would have been to phone or text me to chase a response. Nobody did.
“Further, the simple explanation that a first email from a new contact might be overseen or spammed and automatically deleted was not even considered. Instead a parliamentary speech was written without checking the full facts of the situation.
“The First Minister of Scotland presented to parliament an account which, in my opinion, is most unfair. Yet that account is on public record.”
Mesh injured women repeatedly called for Dr Veronikis to be brought to Scotland to help them.
Elaine Holmes said: “After being assured the First Minister would do everything she could to help us, we were devastated that instead of taking up the kind offer of the best surgeon in the world to come here, a mesh removal centre is being set up staffed by the same surgeons who implanted women.”
The First Minister was warned last year in a letter from the government’s own mesh expert Dr Wael Agur that he believed there was a “professional conspiracy” designed to scupper Dr Veronikis coming to Scotland.
Dr Veronikis, who has written to the Scottish Government to rebutt Ms Sturgeon’s claims, said: “It is my view that the long delays in bringing me to Scotland have provided an opportunity for a parallel project undertaken by local surgical communities to self-regulate their removal skills. The speed at which that project materialised can be sharply contrasted with the process I have been involved in. I am not to blame for the inability of Scotland’s officials to make this project happen.
“Neither was I prepared for the contrasting quickness to publicly suggest to the mesh-injured women of Scotland or to the global mesh-injured community that I had and have withdrawn my offer because I was an unwilling or uncooperative partner. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Campaigning MSP Neil Findlay said: “The offer by this world-class surgeon with a gold record in mesh removal was met with nothing but prevarication, blockage and denial by the government. Dr Veronikis’s letter challenges the First Minister’s version of events. The blame lies squarely with government and officials.
“The big question is what will they do now. Women won’t accept any system which includes them having to see the surgeons who implanted them in the first place.”
The Scottish Government said: “We have received correspondence from Dr Veronikis and we are disappointed to see that his position remains unchanged.
“Our offer to bring Dr Veronikis to Scotland remains open. We will now take time to consider the issues raised in his letter and respond in due course.”
The former chief medical officer wrote to him on February 24 and 27, and the international recruitment team at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde wrote to him on March 3.
We did not get responses to those letters. The interim CMO wrote to Dr Veronikis on April 24 to reiterate that the invitation still stood and that we looked forward to welcoming him.
I am not to blame in any shape or form for the inability of Scotland’s officials to make this project happen and their passive acceptance of unacceptable delays.
Neither was I prepared for the contrasting quickness to publicly suggest to the mesh-injured women of Scotland or to the global mesh-injured community that I had withdrawn my offer because I was an unwilling or uncooperative partner. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe