A world-renowned transplant surgeon who had to fight for two years to win back his NHS job has been praised by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Professor Nadey Hakim was reinstated by Imperial College Healthcare NHS trust in April after a tribunal ruled he had been unfairly dismissed following a row about him operating on two private patients and an NHS patient on the same day in 2013.
In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, Mr Hunt agreed to attend a VIP ceremony on Wednesday evening at which Professor Hakim received a Légion d’honneur medal from the French government for his medical work.
Mr Hunt told the Standard: “Professor Hakim has made an enormous contribution to surgery here in the UK and in France. It is wonderful to see that recognised.”
At the ceremony at the French embassy in Kensington, ambassador Sylvie Bermann said Professor Hakim’s career had been “exceptional”. She said: “Your contribution to research and your experience in pancreas transplants has led to very many lives being saved around the world.”
She said Professor Hakim, who trained at Guy’s hospital and in France and the US, saw his career take off when he performed London’s first pancreatic transfer in 1995. “Since then, you have performed more than 2,000 transplants in a 30-year career, and we are still counting,” she said.
“You represented Britain in the international team of 18 surgeons who performed the world’s first double hand and forearm transplant in 2000 on a Frenchman who lost his hands in a fireworks accident.
“It’s said that your work at Imperial College Healthcare trust has raised more than £3.5 million in research donations for the NHS. It is not every day that a Cabinet minister attends an award ceremony at the French residence. I think it’s an important symbol of your contribution to the British health sector.”
Professor Hakim, 57, a father of four from Cricklewood who works at Hammersmith hospital, said: “I am very grateful to the French government for having bestowed on me this great honour.
“I would not have deserved this honour without the support of my family, colleagues and for the surgical training I have been offered in the UK, allowing me to pursue a career in surgery. Vive Le Royaume-Uni, Vive La France! (Long live the UK, long live France).”
Professor Hakim was suspended in 2014 and dismissed for gross misconduct in February last year for delaying his involvement in a kidney and pancreas transplant at Hammersmith hospital, to enable him to first transplant a kidney between two foreign brothers at Bupa’s Cromwell hospital.
However all three patients suffered no complications and a tribunal judge ordered Imperial to reinstate Professor Hakim and pay him £100,000 compensation. At the time, Professor Hakim described the period as “two annus horribilis”.