Roland Istria – UK – 8 August 2005

A FRENCH surgeon hired by a private hospital to treat Health Service patients botched nearly two-thirds of the operations, according to a leaked Government report.

Roland Istria, 59, was brought in by the Nuffield Hospital in Cambridge to perform joint replacement operations.

But he was so unfamiliar with the procedures that he was spotted reading a textbook while operating on at least one occasion.

Several of his victims have needed corrective surgery to their artificial joints and one has been left barely able to walk.

The case will reignite controversy over the quality of foreign doctors used by the private sector to carry out lucrative NHS operations, a move intended to cut waiting lists.

Mr Istria, head of orthopaedic surgery at the Melun hospital near Paris, worked in Cambridge for two weeks from October last year.

A Department of Health report, leaked to the Sunday Times, revealed nine of his 15 patients suffered problems afterwards.

Knee joints were fixed at the wrong angle, one victim was left with a dislocated hip, one had a tendon severed and another risked breaking their leg because of a poorly fitted metal joint.

Janet Norris, 64, a retired shop assistant manageress from Cambridge, is suing the hospital after she was left in agony following a knee replacement operation.

She said: ‘My blood ran cold when I heard the doctor had looked at a textbook during my operation.

‘Apparently he had difficulty forcing the prosthesis into place. The nurses said if he’d had a hammer he would have hammered it in.

‘I was in terrible pain and couldn’t leave hospital for two weeks. I was put on morphine.

‘Another surgeon operated on me but my knee still feels loose and I feel I’m going to fall over when I walk.’

Phyllis Brown, 68, from Cambridge, is also taking legal action after her knee joint was set so badly she risked breaking her leg. She said: ‘Even after a second operation I can’t walk without crutches.’

Mr Istria was suspended by Nuffield Hospitals, which has 44 hospitals in England and Scotland-after theatre nurses brought his failings to light. He returned to Paris and was banned in his absence by the General Medical Council from performing hip and knee replacements in Britain.

He defended his record, claiming ‘only three operations were redone’. He added: ‘These types of problems can happen. Everyone has recovered. I did not kill anyone or put them in a wheelchair.’

The leaked report blamed ‘a failure of the selection and recruitment’ process, although Nuffield Hospitals said it had met all the Government’s current guidelines.

The Health Department said it was up to hospitals to check doctors’ credentials.