You may want to re-consider having bunion surgery upon hearing that podiatric surgeons are in fact not medically qualified as doctors.
Andrew Robinson, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Spire Cambridge Lea Hospital and former president of regulatory body the British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society (BOFAS), said: “Patients don’t understand that a consultant podiatric surgeon is not the same as a surgeon on the specialist register. The title itself is misleading.”
Orthopaedic surgeons, like all doctors, are registered with the General Medical Council, while podiatric surgeons are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).
Non-doctors have been able to operate on bunions since surgical podiatry was developed in Britain two decades ago, but within Europe, only Britain and Spain allow practitioners who are not registered doctors to undertake foot and ankle surgery.
71-year-old Joyce Dunbar from Norwich suffered at the hands of a surgeon who was not qualified as a doctor. She was left unable to walk unaided and in agony after her big toe was discovered to be fractured following a bunion operation. As a result, her foot has been irreparably damaged.
Mr Bob Sharp, a Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon for Oxford University Hospitals, explained that the risks associated with bunion surgery are considerable – there are approximately 200 different ways in which bunion surgery can be performed and 10% of patients who undergo the surgery end up worse off, with only 1 in 5 surgeries resolving the initial problem.
Joyce’s medical records were sent to Mr Sharp, who concluded that the fracture to Joyce’s toe was the result of a cut made in the wrong place, which he described as “a disaster”. The NHS Litigation Authority, acting for NHS Norfolk, denied this was the case and claimed it was a ‘stress fracture’ caused after the operation, which Mr Sharp disputed. He said: “The fracture has occurred in such a plane and is so straight that it is obvious it was made by a saw.”
It was only after a later operation that Joyce became aware of the fact that podiatric surgeons are in fact not surgeons at all. She said: “I had no idea the man operating on my foot was not a doctor; if I had, I’d have gone elsewhere.”
Ally Taft, partner with Medical Accident Group, said: “Joyce’s case highlights the need for the proper clinical governance that exists for doctors. Whilst that is unavailable, limitations of the treatments and the diagnoses that podiatric surgeons can offer should be made transparent to patients.”