Consultant admits failures over woman’s death

ONE of Scotland’s highest paid doctors has admitted that he failed to provide adequate care to an elderly Shetland woman who died from pneumonia just hours after being discharged from Lerwick’s Gilbert Bain Hospital.

Consultant physician Dr Ken Graham is facing a fitness to practice hearing by the General Medical Council into his treatment of 84 year old Eileen Peterson, who died on 9 March 2005.


Amongst the charges, Dr Graham is accused of deliberately misleading a fatal accident inquiry held at Lerwick Sheriff Court just over a year after her death.

In his adjudication in July 2006, Sheriff Principal Sir Stephen Young exonerated Dr Graham, saying NHS Shetland could not be held responsible for Mrs Peterson’s death. The judge went so far as to say that the inquiry had been a waste of taxpayers’ money.

However three years later the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman came to the opposite conclusion, saying the hospital had failed the patient on four counts and insisted the health board apologise to the family.


This week’s hearing in Manchester began on Monday and is scheduled to last until 2 June, when a decision will be made on the doctor’s professional future.

However by Wednesday morning when Dr Graham began his second day in the witness stand, he had already admitted most of the charges against him, including failures in his assessment and treatment of the patient when she was in his care.

The consultant has also admitted that he acted “inappropriately” when he discharged her from Gilbert Bain Hospital to Lerwick’s Taing House care home with a prescription to treat a urinary tract infection with amoxicillin.


Five hours after she returned to the home where she had been staying for four years, Mrs Peterson died from pneumonia. Her family were completely unaware of the seriousness of her condition and were not with her at the time.

Dr Graham has admitted that the clinical note he made about Mrs Peterson’s assessment, examination and treatment were “inadequate”.

But perhaps most seriously, he has admitted that he told the 2006 fatal accident inquiry that he did diagnose pneumonia, but his diagnosis had been “incorrectly recorded” in Mrs Peterson’s medical notes.

Whether this is an admission of dishonesty and a deliberate attempt to mislead Sir Stephen Young has yet to be proven, as has his alleged failure to communicate Mrs Peterson’s condition adequately with both her family and staff at Taing House.

Dr Graham, a kidney specialist, joined NHS Shetland in 1998 and was promoted to medical director in 2006, two months after the outcome of the fatal accident inquiry. He stood down from the post in August last year.

In 2009 it was reported that Dr Graham earned almost £180,000 a year, making him one of the highest paid NHS professionals in Scotland, having received a pay increase of almost £40,000 the previous year.

An NHS Shetland spokeswoman said that it was not appropriate to comment on the fitness to practice hearing until it had been concluded.

The panel, chaired by Professor Brian Gomes da Costa, will decide next week whether Dr Graham’s misconduct is serious enough to impair his fitness to practice.