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

Emily Bhogal, 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.

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.

Emily, of Up Holland, continued to suffer with back pain. Her parents took her to further consultations with Mr Williamson and other surgeons in 2006. However, X-rays taken before her initial surgery had been lost so the other surgeons were unable to analyse her care, Emily said.

At the time her parents tried to complain about her care, but Emily 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. Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust did not arrange an appointment, so instead Emily spoke with her GP who arranged for her to be referred. Emily, aged 30, has now spoken out about the impact her condition continues to have on her life and how she wants “full and proper answers”.

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. 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.”

Emily received a letter dated two weeks after the Manchester University Trust letter from her current spinal surgeon at another NHS Trust. That review included X-ray, CT and MRI scans. It found at least five of the 10 screws used in surgery were “less than ideally placed.”

Emily, who struggles to look after her daughter Aurelia who is approaching one-year-old, has now instructed expert medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to further investigate and help secure the answers and access to specialist treatment she requires.

Catherine Slattery, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Emily and other patients operated on by Mr Williamson, said: “Various reports into Mr Williamson’s practice have identified worrying issues in the care some patients received. However, these only cover a certain timeframe of Mr Williamson’s practice.

“We continue to hear a growing number of first-hand accounts from Emily and others regarding the issues they live with. While some of those patients underwent surgery in the review period, many like Emily fall outside of that period.

“All those patients we represent have legitimate and serious concerns about the surgery they received, irrespective of when they underwent operations. Their stories also appear to highlight how each case isn’t just a statistic but a real-life story of lives being severely affected.

“What’s particularly perturbing for Emily is the apparent contradictory information she has been given. This has added to her distress and left her with more questions and fears regarding the review process and whether the most thorough and transparent investigations are being held.

“In the meantime, we continue to support our clients at this upsetting time.”

Mr Williamson worked at Salford Royal Infirmary 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. 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”.

Earlier this year the Breen report examining Northern Care Alliance’s response into how historic concerns into Mr Williamson’s practice were handled by the Trust found certain patients, relatives, and hospital staff “had been significantly let down.”

In March 2024, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, published its report into Mr Williamson’s practice relating to 56 patients operated on at the children’s hospital.

It found some patients had suffered “severe harm”. There was no evidence of patients receiving an apology. The “lack of formal acknowledgement of complications may have contributed to a lack of recognition of their frequency or severity arising through the care’ of Mr Williamson,” the report added.

Emily struggles to look after Aurelia and is reliant on her husband, an NHS doctor. Her condition has deteriorated since giving birth in 2023.

Emily said: “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. 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.

St Helens Star: Emily and AureliaEmily and Aurelia (Image: Emily and Aurelia)

“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 . “For years myself and my parents had concerns and tried to complain. 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 hoped that the children’s hospital review would help me finally get to the bottom of everything. However, I wasn’t examined in person, nor any scans or X-rays taken.

“When I received the letter, I couldn’t believe it. To make matters worse I then received the letter from my surgeon. It astounds me how the findings of that clinic review in which I had a CT scan, X-rays and an MRI scan were so different.

“Because of that I can’t accept the findings of the children’s hospital. Not only has it left me upset and angry but also concerned everyone has received the same blanket letter and patients aren’t receiving thorough reviews.

“It feels like the children’s hospital is trying to brush things under the carpet again. That’s why I need full and proper answers. It’s the least I deserve.”

Spire Healthcare has extended its recall of patients operated on by Mr Williamson at the private provider’s Manchester hospital.

Originally the review covered those who underwent surgery at Spire Manchester between 2008 and 2013, when Mr Williamson stopped working at the site.

However, it’s now expanded the review to 1998, covering the entirety of when Mr Williamson carried out operations. Spire said the decision was “to ensure that all patients have received an appropriate standard of care”.

Catherine Slattery, an expert medical negligence lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, added: “All patients deserve the same answers, and where appropriate, access to redress as well as the specialist support and rehabilitation they require.

“We welcome Spire’s decision to extend its review period and call on others to follow. To uphold public confidence and ensure all lessons possible are learned, there needs to be a full recall of all Mr Williamson’s patients.”