United Kingdom

Cancer patient did not know doctor had financial link to treatment he 'strongly recommended'

Consultant urologist Paul Miller, 62, (pictured) is accused of being 'financially motivated' when he referred eight patients to undergo high intensity focused ultrasound (Hifu) which uses high frequency sound waves to burn away cancer cells

A prostate cancer patient did not know his doctor had a financial link to a new private treatment that he 'strongly recommended' to him, a tribunal heard. 

Consultant urologist Paul Miller, 62, is accused of being 'financially motivated' when he referred eight patients to undergo high intensity focused ultrasound (Hifu) which uses high frequency sound waves to burn away cancer cells. 

The General Medical Council (GMC) argues a conflict of interest arose when Mr Miller set up his own company and bought a Hifu machine for £500,000.

He subsequently rented it to privately-run Gatwick Park Hospital in Horley, Surrey, where he treated patients. 

Hifu was deemed inappropriate for eight patients he recommended it to, with it delaying some receiving treatment that would actually work.

Ten cancer patients died after they were treated by the consultant urologist between 2006 and 2014.

A 2019 inquest found that that seven patients died from natural causes but said that Renfried Avery, 80, Leslie Owers, 75, and Graham Stoten, 57, all died of natural causes contributed to by neglect. 

Ten cancer patients died after they were treated by the consultant urologist between 2006 and 2014.  Pictured: Renfried Avery was one of three patients who died of natural causes contributed to by neglect, a coroner ruled in 2019

Bladder cancer patient Graham Stoten, who died aged 57, (pictured with his two sons) died of natural causes contributed to by neglect, a coroner ruled 

One patient who survived following treatment by Mr Miller told a Medical Practitioners Tribunal he was unaware of the link when he visited Mr Miller in March 2006 after a biopsy confirmed cancer was in his prostate.

The witness, referred to as Patient K, said he subsequently became aware of the financial connection between Mr Miller and Hifu - which emerged in the mid-2000s - but could not say when.

He said: 'He told me that it was not something that was widely available, certainly as far as the NHS was concerned, and it was a procedure that was being used in France successfully.'

An MRI scan revealed the cancer had not spread and he was happy to go ahead with the Hifu single procedure because of its 'relative lack of side-effects', he told the hearing in Manchester.

A 2019 inquest found that that seven patients died from natural causes but said that Renfried Avery, 80, (pictured) Leslie Owers, 75, and Graham Stoten, 57, all died of natural causes contributed to by neglect

He said: 'I was very guided by Mr Miller's recommendation as to the use of Hifu and I was aware radiotherapy was a treatment that took place over a period of time. I don't believe we had a detailed discussion as such in that regard but I knew about the other options.'

Asked by Catherine Cundy, for the GMC, if he came away from the March 2006 consultation with the idea that Hifu was his recommended treatment, Patient K replied: 'It was strongly recommended and I did come away with that view.'

The GMC alleges the treatment of Patient K contributed to a delay in him receiving definitive therapy.

Mr Miller is also alleged to have failed to provide adequate care to five other patients.

The doctor denies misconduct on various dates between 2004 and 2018.

In October 2019, senior coroner Penelope Schofield criticised Mr Miller and Sussex and Surrey NHS Trust at inquests into the deaths of 10 of his cancer patients who died of natural causes, but she found three had been contributed to by neglect, and 'missed opportunities' were noted in three others.  

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