MILLIONS of pounds in compensation could be paid to hundreds of women if it's proved they suffered at the hands of a gynaecologist formerly working at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.
A mass action against former consultant Rob Jones could now be launched after a legal framework was signed which opens the field to any woman with a complaint about his work during 20 years at the hospital.
Mr Jones, also an obstetrician, delivered David Cameron's youngest child, Florence, in August 2010.
Despite eight reviews and numerous expressions of concern, he did not stop working at the hospital until May 2012 and then voluntarily removed himself from the General Medical Council (GMC) register.
Six months after he left, the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) contacted more than 1,500 of Mr Jones's recent patients and several wide- ranging and independent investigations were launched.
Mike Bird, a partner and medical negligence expert at Truro solicitors Foot Anstey, is representing more than 100 women and said an essential protocol had now been signed with RCHT.
It meant any woman concerned about her treatment by Mr Jones while he worked at the trust between 1992 and 2012 could have her case considered by independent medical experts.
Compensation would be available where it was proved that female patients – and possibly babies and children – suffered injury as a result of negligence by Mr Jones.
"Some people have suffered only minor injuries and may already have had those injuries corrected; others have suffered, often in silence, with very personal physical problems," said Mr Bird.
Up to 1,000 women could join the action after a clinical audit estimated around 50 patients in Mr Jones's last two and a half years of practice might have suffered some avoidable harm.
Lawyers for the women say it could be the first group action RCHT has faced at such a level, although there have been similar actions in other parts of the country.
Mr Bird said: "A lot of the women felt they were the only ones who had problems, and have been quite emotionally affected by realising that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, who have been affected in a similar way."
He pointed out that the situation involving Mr Jones had not "happened on the current trust management's watch" and their efforts to restore any loss of confidence in the organisation should be applauded.
Mum of three Claire Hill, 36, from Tywardreath, was operated on by Mr Jones in 2010 for problems following the birth of her third child in 2010.
It is alleged the operation was wrongly performed, and Mrs Hill later had to undergo a hysterectomy and endured months of excruciating pain and incontinence. She continues to suffer from chronic fatigue.
Mrs Hill said although the agreement was good news, no amount of money could compensate her for what she had undergone.
"Given the choice I would go back and never ever have had the surgery," she said. "I wish I'd never met him."
Lorna Watt, head of legal services at RCHT, said the trust was pleased that the protocol to manage litigation had been finalised.
She said in the past year the first claim had already been made, and they had considered the development of the agreement while progressing with several other cases.
"We now look forward to working with Foot Anstey and will continue to do all that we can to process the claims as swiftly as possible for the women and families concerned," she added.
Mr Jones is being represented by the Medical Defence Union. A spokeswoman said that Mr Jones did not wish to comment at present.