I had back surgery by a rogue doctor as a child and have lived in chronic pain for 19 years

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A Lancashire woman who was operated on by a Manchester spinal surgeon found to have “harmed” patients has spoken of her concern after receiving “contradictory” reports into her care.

Emily Bhogal, 30, who has lived in chronic pain for 19 years, is among a growing group of patients to instruct expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate their care connected to John Bradley Williamson.

In April 2005, Emily, then aged 11, underwent surgery performed by Mr Williamson to have two metal rods inserted for a curvature of the spine at the former Pendlebury Children’s Hospital – now Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

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Emily pictured with her daughter Aurelia who she fears she will not be able to get out of bed quickly enough to care for. Emily pictured with her daughter Aurelia who she fears she will not be able to get out of bed quickly enough to care for.
Emily pictured with her daughter Aurelia who she fears she will not be able to get out of bed quickly enough to care for. | UGC

However, following the surgery, Emily, who was not in pain beforehand, said she started to suffer with back pain.

About a week after the operation,  Emily collapsed and was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. She underwent treatment for a life threatening haemothorax - a build-up of blood - where one-and-a-half litres was drained from her chest.

In April 2005, Emily, then aged 11, underwent surgery performed by Mr Williamson to have two metal rods inserted for a curvature of the spine at the former Pendlebury Children’s Hospital – now Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.In April 2005, Emily, then aged 11, underwent surgery performed by Mr Williamson to have two metal rods inserted for a curvature of the spine at the former Pendlebury Children’s Hospital – now Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
In April 2005, Emily, then aged 11, underwent surgery performed by Mr Williamson to have two metal rods inserted for a curvature of the spine at the former Pendlebury Children’s Hospital – now Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. | UGC

She continued to suffer with back pain. Her parents took her to further consultations with Mr Williamson and other surgeons in 2006.

Emily, then aged 11. Emily, then aged 11.
Emily, then aged 11. | UGC
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However, X-rays taken before her initial surgery had been lost so the other surgeons were unable to analyse her care.

At the time her parents tried to complain about her care, but said they felt ignored.

After news of investigations into Mr Williamson’s practice emerged, Emily asked for a review of her care from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

She also asked to be reviewed by a spinal surgeon.

Sign up for our free newsletters now Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust did not arrange an appointment, so instead Emily spoke with her GP who arranged for her to be referred.  

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She has now spoken out about the impact her condition continues to have on her life and how she wants “full and proper answers”.

She said: “I had back surgery by a rogue doctor as a child and have lived in chronic pain for 19 years.

“It feels like my life has been one of living in agonising pain since my surgery.

“I only sleep for a few hours each night and getting out of bed is difficult because of the pain.

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“I struggle to walk for the first few hours of each day, though the stiffness and cramps ease over a few hours of movement, the pain continues.

“I struggle to look after Aurelia, or even pick her up and cuddle her. When my husband is at work at night, I stay with my parents.

“I am worried I will not be able to get out of bed quickly enough to care for our daughter.”

It comes after a review by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust based on her medical records found Emily experienced “no harm” because of her spinal surgery.

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A letter from the Trust dated February 2024 and seen by Emily’s lawyers at Irwin Mitchell, noted a “good correction” of her spine and that the position of rods and screws were “appropriate.”

But Ms Bhogal said an assessment by her current spinal surgeon at another NHS Trust found at least five of the 10 screws used in surgery were "less than ideally placed". This week, private firm Spire Healthcare has extended a recall for patients treated by Mr Williamson so it could review the care they received.

He worked as a consultant at Salford Royal Hospital between 1991 and January 2015 when he was sacked.

Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, which now runs Salford Royal, launched a Spinal Patient Safety Look Back Review in 2021.

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It was set up to examine Mr Williamson’s work while he was employed by the former Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust which used to run the hospital.  Last year a report found issues including substandard surgery, patients suffering long-term pain and mobility issues, those operated on suffered higher than expected blood loss as well as a lack of informed consent from patients.

The review of more than 130 patients operated on between 2009 and 2014 also found seven people suffered “severe harm” while 13 suffered “moderate harm”. 

Catherine Slattery, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said there should be a "full recall" of all Mr Williamson's patients to "uphold public confidence" and "ensure all lessons are learned".

Emily, from Up Holland, near Skelmersdale, added: “For years myself and my parents had concerns and tried to complain.

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“However, each time my parents did they weren’t really acknowledged. It felt like we were being ignored in the hope everything would blow over.

“It was only after seeing various reports about an investigation into the surgeon did the full seriousness of everything become apparent.

“I need full and proper answers. It’s the least I deserve.”

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