A FORMER mayor is asking the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to investigate a hospital's handling of the case of disgraced surgeon Richard Neale.

John Bacon, who was mayor of Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in 1983, believes that if he is successful it could set a precedent that might lead to other NHS hospitals being investigated under health and safety legislation.

Mr Bacon has told HSE officials that Mr Neale's record, before he was appointed as a consultant gynaecologist at the Friarage Hospital in 1985, was not properly vetted - despite his appalling record in Canada.

He said warnings by Can-adian medical authorities - that Mr Neale was incompetent and a danger to patients - were not taken seriously when information about him came to light in 1986.

He said that instead of dismissing the surgeon - who was struck off in Britain in July 2000 after 34 out of 35 allegations of misconduct were proven, he was allowed to continue operating. He also complained that Mr Neale was given a golden handshake and a good reference.

About 250 former patients have since said that they suffered at the surgeon's hands.

An HSE spokeswoman said it was "too early" to comment on the issues raised by Mr Bacon.

Dr Michael Walton, medical director for Northallerton Health Services NHS Trust, which includes the Friarage Hospital, said: "We are awaiting the decision about an inquiry into Richard Neale. The trust will co-operate fully with that inquiry and that is where I would expect these issues to be dealt with."