Cosmetic surgeon Dr Natalie Blakely ‘bugged patient consultations’

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Dr Natalie Blakely, 44, is accused of secretly recording confidential conversations between patients and a male doctor after she fell out with him over their business dealings

Dr Natalie Blakely, 44, is accused of secretly recording confidential conversations between patients and a male doctor after she fell out with him over their business dealings

Dr Natalie Blakely, 44, is accused of secretly recording confidential conversations between patients and a male doctor after she fell out with him over their business dealings

A top cosmetic surgery expert nicknamed ‘The Skin Queen’ bugged the medical consultations of 200 patients during a feud with a fellow doctor at her clinic, a hearing has heard.

Dr Natalie Blakely, 44, is accused of secretly recording confidential conversations between patients and a male doctor after she fell out with him over their business dealings.

The secret tapes were allegedly compiled without the knowledge of either party and carried out over several months at the acclaimed Light Touch clinic in Weybridge, Surrey.

The clinic’s clients have included former Eastenders actresses Martine McCutcheon and Charlie Brooks.

When the recordings were discovered, patients complained to Dr Blakely but she ‘lied’ and said the tapes were part of an ‘investigation’ sanctioned by the General Medical Council and The Care Quality Commission.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service was told on Wednesday there was no evidence to support Blakely’s claim the GMC and CQC approved her recordings. 

Dr Blakely allegedly told a patient: ‘I am sure you find this difficult but discussions were put in place and there was no compromise of patient confidentiality. Advice was sought on how to proceed with an investigation.’

It emerged Dr Blakely and the male doctor, known only as Dr B, had been involved in a business dispute over alleged undercharging for services at the clinic.

When the recordings were discovered, patients complained to Dr Blakely but she 'lied' and said the tapes were part of an 'investigation' sanctioned by the General Medical Council and The Care Quality Commission. Pictured: Dr Blakely at her Light Touch clinic in Weybridge, Surrey

When the recordings were discovered, patients complained to Dr Blakely but she 'lied' and said the tapes were part of an 'investigation' sanctioned by the General Medical Council and The Care Quality Commission. Pictured: Dr Blakely at her Light Touch clinic in Weybridge, Surrey

When the recordings were discovered, patients complained to Dr Blakely but she ‘lied’ and said the tapes were part of an ‘investigation’ sanctioned by the General Medical Council and The Care Quality Commission. Pictured: Dr Blakely at her Light Touch clinic in Weybridge, Surrey

Blakely’s husband, thought to be a director at the surgery, was said to have been involved in filing responses to the complaints.

On Wednesday Dr Blakely, who was once voted ‘Best Doctor for Botox and Fillers’ by Tatler magazine, faced being struck off after being accused of breaching patient confidentiality by clients reported feeling ‘distressed’ at learning their consultations had been recorded.

Giving evidence, one woman known as Patient A told the Manchester tribunal: ‘I have never met Dr Blakely and I didn’t know I was being was recorded. I felt unsatisfactory and very annoyed.

‘The whole thing is that I did not ask to be recorded. It was unpleasant to not know who could have heard and for her to think it was okay as the GMC had approved of this, but this was never ensured. I feel very uncomfortable about the whole thing.’

The anti-ageing clinic which was founded by Blakely and her lawyer sister Katie in 2009 claims to specialise in non-invasive procedures and other treatments including facials, threading and therapeutic massages.

 In 2015 a local actress suffering from acne underwent treatment and went onto to appear in several films including the BAFTA award-winning motor racing movie Rush starring Chris Hemsworth.

But lawyer for GMC Gavin McBride said: ‘Between October 2015 and March 2016 an investigation was carried out into Dr Blakely’s conduct and transcripts were obtained of covert recordings of consultations between Dr B and clients of the clinic.’

The clinic's clients have included former Eastenders actresses Martine McCutcheon

The clinic's clients have included former Eastenders actresses Martine McCutcheon

Charlie Brooks

Charlie Brooks

The clinic’s clients have included former Eastenders actresses Martine McCutcheon (left) and Charlie Brooks (right) 

Mr McBride continued: ‘There was no discussions about these covert recordings between him and the clinic patients. Around 200 patients over that period in these meetings with Dr B were in these recordings – made without their knowledge or consent.

‘They had the belief they would be heard in privacy as they would be discussing private matters such as their health records. They had no knowledge of how or when the recordings had started what was included in them and who had access to these recordings.

‘Many patients wrote to Dr Blakely to complain. She permitted the recordings to take place, which is not acceptable. But the patients received the same reply stating ‘advice was sought and taken from a QC, GMC and the CQC on how to proceed with the investigation’.

‘I find it difficult to believe these recordings were sanctioned by the GMC.. Most of the patients of Dr Blakely were caused distress and some proceeded to make further complaints against her. The GMC received some complaints from some patients directly.

‘There was a complaint to the clinic about covert recordings but Dr Blakely claimed she had discussions with the GMC about these recordings, which would be permitted under exceptional circumstances as long as the patients confidentiality was not compromised and she insisted that patient confidentiality was not compromised.

‘The GMC contacted the CQC in June 2016 where they confirmed they did not have any contact from Dr Blakely in regarding to covert recording of consultations.’

On Wednesday Dr Blakely, who was once voted 'Best Doctor for Botox and Fillers' by Tatler magazine, faced being struck off after being accused of breaching patient confidentiality. Pictured: A view of the clinic in Surrey

On Wednesday Dr Blakely, who was once voted 'Best Doctor for Botox and Fillers' by Tatler magazine, faced being struck off after being accused of breaching patient confidentiality. Pictured: A view of the clinic in Surrey

On Wednesday Dr Blakely, who was once voted ‘Best Doctor for Botox and Fillers’ by Tatler magazine, faced being struck off after being accused of breaching patient confidentiality. Pictured: A view of the clinic in Surrey

The anti-ageing clinic which was founded by Blakely and her lawyer sister Katie in 2009 claims to specialise in non-invasive procedures and other treatments including facials, threading and therapeutic massages

The anti-ageing clinic which was founded by Blakely and her lawyer sister Katie in 2009 claims to specialise in non-invasive procedures and other treatments including facials, threading and therapeutic massages

The anti-ageing clinic which was founded by Blakely and her lawyer sister Katie in 2009 claims to specialise in non-invasive procedures and other treatments including facials, threading and therapeutic massages

Mr McBride said: ‘The GMC could also find no contact in regard to covert recording. They were in contact with the Light Touch Clinic about these recordings and received a similar reply.

‘The response they received showed they did not know how to respond to the requests of information and it was clear that it was Dr Blakely’s husband who was involved.

‘Dr B had been involved in a business dispute with Dr Blakely. He was her former business partner. The dispute was over an allegation of underfunding and undercharging by Dr B which had led the company to a financial deficit. Matters were acrimonious between Dr Blakely and Dr B. 

‘There had been a complaint to the police regarding this but they had not proceeded with prosecution, yet there was a civil claim.

‘Investigations also found evidence of an email trail between a patient and Dr B. Here the patient said ‘I had an appointment with Dr B. This was recorded during our consultation appointment which is not appropriate.’

‘The patient received a response from Dr Blakely stating ‘I am sure you find this difficult but discussions were out in place, there was no compromise of patient confidentiality’ or words to that effect. She also added ‘advice was sought and taken from a QC, GMC and CQC on how to proceed in the investigation.

‘Telephone calls were on the record of Dr Blakely at the Light Touch Clinic where she agreed about the covert recordings. She remains in a dispute with her former business partner. There was no advice sought, taken or given by the GMC or CQC.’

Blakely denies misconduct. The hearing continues.