Nov 15 2012 by Helen Hunt, Ormskirk Advertiser
Westhead heart surgeon Elaine Griffiths facing probe by doctors’ watchdog
A MEDIC who helped save ex-Liverpool FC manager Gerard Houllier’s life is being investigated by the doctors’ watchdog.
Elaine Griffiths, from Westhead, has been referred to the General Medical Council.
This week bosses at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital refused to explain why the surgeon, Britain’s first female cardiac surgeon who has worked there for more than 11 years, was now the subject of “external proceedings”.
But they did confirm the 55-year-old – who assisted the now retired heart surgeon Abbas Rashid during Houllier’s 2001 operation to mend a dissected aorta – had left the hospital.
The Trust would not comment on rumours that the cardiac consultant had been sacked.
Management also refused to reveal the reason for Ms Griffiths’ departure from the Broadgreen-based hospital or explain why she was being investigated by the GMC.
But Ms Griffiths is well-respected by her patients and many are convinced the matter is not related to her clinical work, describing her as a “wonderful woman”.
A patient source said: “She is an excellent surgeon, absolutely superb.
“The feeling is that it’s not in regards to her work.”
The GMC confirmed they were investigating Ms Griffiths’ case and that, following a meeting of its Interim Orders Panel on August 24, conditions had been put on her registration whilst the probe is carried out.
This is sometimes done to protect the public and patients but also because it can be in the best interests of the doctors themselves.
The conditions mean Ms Griffiths must tell the GMC promptly if she gets another NHS job or works outside the UK and “must confine her medical practice to posts where her work will be supervised by a named consultant”.
The IOP panel also ruled that she must tell her new place of work that her doctors’ registration is subject to conditions, in the case of locum appointments – at least 24 hours before starting work.
Doctors can be referred to the GMC for many reasons, not just relating to the clinical care of patients.
The GMC upholds a series of standards which range from good record-keeping, honesty and best practice to behaviour outside the clinical sphere such as bringing the profession’s reputation into disrepute and more.
If the GMC investigation decides there is a case to answer Ms Griffiths could be brought before a Fitness to Practise panel and could ultimately be struck off.
A GMC spokesperson said: “Dr Griffiths has interim conditions on her registration pending the outcome of a Fitness to Practise investigation.”
Meanwhile, a spokes- woman for Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital said: “Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital can confirm that Elaine Griffiths is no longer employed by the Trust. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the reasons for her departure from the Trust as external proceedings are underway.”
The Trust added that it can reassure the Advertiser and the wider public “there are no ongoing patient safety issues” in connection to Ms Griffiths’ case.
Ms Griffiths and her legal representatives declined to comment.
It is not the first time the cardiac consultant has been investigated.
In March 2003, it was revealed Ms Griffiths had been suspended from her job at the Cardiothoracic Centre (the former name of the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital) while an independent expert was brought in to review a number of her cases. She was later cleared to return to her duties.
Gerard Houllier still returns to the hospital every year for a check-up.