THE boss in charge of The Friarage Hospital at the height of the Neale affair says he has no regrets, despite increasing calls for a public inquiry.

Haydn Cook was chief executive of the Northallerton trust when a much-criticised deal was struck to persuade the disgraced surgeon to move to another hospital.

"I'm confident that the board did the best they could on the available knowledge at the time, and I don't have any regret," said Mr Cook, who now works as a senior manager in the NHS Estates office in Leeds.

He said much of the criticism was made "with the benefit of hindsight", and the Friarage should be given credit for taking action - while other hospitals allowed similar problems to drag on.

He added: "Arguably you ought to be ringing the trusts that haven't moved doctors on as opposed to the ones that did."

There were some "pretty iffy consultants" working in other hospitals, he added.

His comments followed confirmation that Mr Neale - who was struck off a month ago for botching operations and lying to patients - will not be appealing against the GMC decision.

Former patients of Mr Neale are pressing for a public inquiry into the affair, a call which has been widely supported.

Last night, Graham Maloney, spokesman for the ex-patients said: "Any reasonable hospital would have acted in the first six months. It took ten years for The Friarage to do anything about Neale, and even then they simply passed the problem on to another hospital."

He said many of the surgeon's victims would not have been injured if the Friarage and taken firm action at an earlier stage.

In a move which was subsequently criticised by NHS auditors, the Friarage management offered Mr Neale a £100,000 financial pay-off and a favourable reference if he would leave.

The trust also agreed to buy Mr Neale's consulting rooms in the town for £57,000.

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