SENIOR health bosses failed to prevent a GP sexually abusing patients over a 22-year period despite knowing about allegations against him, according to a long awaited report.

Roy Murray was sentenced to six years in jail in September 2004 after he was found guilty of 23 counts of assault upon female patients at his one-man surgery on Liverpool Road, Greenbank in St Helens dating back to 1980.

An external review commissioned by Cheshire and Merseyside Strategic Health Authority - and finally published today - says senior NHS bosses in St Helens could have stopped the disgraced doctor’s offending earlier but they failed to gather complaints together and believed it was beyond their responsibility.

And alarmingly the report states it “does not feel able to give assurances that systems and processes for safeguarding patient safety are robust” in the modern day NHS St Helens, adding: “It is clear that NHS organisations are slow to learn lessons from what has gone before and even slower to implement whole system change.”

One of Murray’s victims who has read the report told the Star this week it details “massive failings” in the town’s health authorities during the 80s and 90s. Many of the victims are still pursuing legal action against St Helens Primary Care Trust.

Murray, now in his mid 60s, from Bromborough, worked in Wirral from 1970 to 1979 before he moved to St Helens in 1980.

Many of his victims were young women seeking contraceptive advice for the first time or advice on their first pregnancy and they did not know what to expect. The report states how they have given examples of “long and painful examinations, which were frequently repeated, both at his surgery or occasionally when Murray made a home visit”.

Nineteen women were interviewed for the report, with many saying they were abused for several years.

Their traumatic experiences included being asked to strip to their underwear after suffering a bump to the head, undergoing prolonged intimate examinations no matter what symptoms they reported that were ‘more sexual than medical’ and having to endure sexual touching and stroking and inappropriate conversations.

However, despite numerous formal complaints between 1980 and 1982 health bodies did not take action – not even after the Local Medical Committee visited the doctor in 1987 and advised him to use chaperones.

The review team found that many records of complaints regarding Murray and interviews between 1982 and the mid 1990s were missing, while some patients declined to press criminal charges or give evidence against the doctor.

Yet senior officers in all the health bodies predating St Helens Primary Care Trust in 2002 were aware of problems with Murray’s practice, including a falling patients list and his abrupt manner and lateness, but, “explained them away” as he was “a dour Scot who did not suffer fools gladly.”

Criticising two unnamed senior executives of the former Family Practitioner Committee and Family Health Services Authority the report concludes: “Despite senior executives knowing of allegations of sexualised behaviour against Murray, these were not acted on,” and “…they did not have the wider issues of his patients’ healthcare at the forefront of their thinking”.

Murray was finally arrested in 2004 after an inquiry was launched two years earlier following a chance conversation between a practice manager and counsellor.

He has since been released on licence from prison, however, he was placed on the the sex offenders’ register when convicted and is now unable to practice.

Following the report’s publication St Helens NHS has set up an independent counselling service to offer help, support and advice to Murray’s victims.

This service is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day and can be accessed by telephoning 0800 531 6090.

If members of the public have any concerns they would like to discuss with NHS St Helens, a confidential helpline has been established on 0151 495 5290 this will be available Monday to Friday from 9am – 5pm.