THE calls for a public inquiry into the Richard Neale affair should grow even louder this morning. The former chief executive at Northallerton's Friarage Hospital has said that he has no regrets about off-loading the incompetent surgeon onto another hospital where he was able to continue practising.

It is easy to see Haydn Cook's point of view. As a manager in Northallerton, he had a local problem with a rogue gynaecologist who was wounding patients. That gynaecologist needed to be got rid of so Mr Cook went to great lengths to move him out of his patch.

The problem in Northallerton was solved. Mr Cook had done his job.

But the problem in Leicestershire was just beginning. Mr Cook, and the Northallerton board, had done nothing to stop Neale practising his incompetent skills on other vulnerable patients.

Part of the Government's NHS reforms has been aimed at stopping the "postcode lottery" whereby patients get treatment depending on where they live. In a similar vein, it must now investigate this postcode problem to stop a consultant being shuffled to a new area just because he has messed up so badly in his old one. The NHS must become a nationwide operation - what is dangerous to people in Northallerton must surely be dangerous to people in Leicestershire.

Another part of the Government's current reforms aims to stop the "consultant is king" culture. Mr Cook asserts that there are plenty of other "iffy consultants elsewhere" but their trusts are either too scared to confront them or they lack the powers to deal with them.

This revelation will only further shake public confidence in the NHS, and it is why a public inquiry must address how incompetent, arrogant and deceitful consultants like Neale can be kept away from patients wherever they live.

Just do it

THE Government is tentatively considering setting up a pilot scheme later this year with a view to speeding up the claims for compensation from former miners with lung disease.

How much more weighing up of options does there have to be? How many more civil servants have to sit down and discuss the pros and cons? Surely the time for such considerations was two years ago when the Government agreed to pay the compensation.

Now is the time for action, because the most relevant question is: how many more miners have to die without receiving the compensation that the Government accepts they are entitled to?