IT will have come as no surprise to patients who have experienced poor treatment at the hands of spinal surgeon Colin Campbell Mainds that a medical tribunal has found the doctor's fitness to practise is impaired.

They may wonder, however, why it has taken so long for the medical authorities to arrive at that conclusion.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) of the General Medical Council was first convened to consider concerns about Dr Mainds in mid-September last year. It was not until March, however, that it finally concluded he had "failed to provide good clinical care to nine patients". It then took a further two months, until now, to add that his fitness to practise was impaired.

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The panel is still to decide what sanctions to impose, with possible penalties ranging from suspension or mandatory training to being struck off the medical register and forbidden to work as a doctor in the UK.

Clearly it must take all evidence into account before making its decision, but the ongoing delays in bringing this sad case to a conclusion are only prolonging the anxiety for patients.

At the centre of it are numerous individuals whose lives have been affected. Mr Mainds left a number of patients with permanent health problems such as pain and paralysis.

One patient is lorry driver and grandfather David Russell, who gave evidence at the hearing. He was referred to Mr Mainds for an operation by NHS Lothian after experiencing severe leg pain caused by pressure in his back pushing down on his sciatic nerve.

Today, although he had a second operation at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Mr Russell's back is so sore, his wife has to tie his shoelaces. He cannot stand for more than a few minutes.

Mr Russell told The Herald in March that he had first raised concerns in 2009.

Such delays in waiting for answers only make matters worse for those patients who have suspected all along that what happened to them did not fall into the category of bad luck.

At least now, following the hearing, they have some idea of why the problems arose. Mr Mainds admitted to the panel he was performing very high numbers of operations, more than 400 a year. He had allowed his workload to "spiral out of control" while working at BMI Ross Hall Hospital.

At the same time, there was a question of competence. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Niall Craig, who has been supervisor to Mr Mainds since November 2011, stated that since then Mr Mainds' confidence had improved, but his level of competence was not yet sufficient to work independently.

It is no wonder that some of the doctor's former patients would be dismayed to see him continuing to perform surgery.

Whatever the outcome, they have waited long enough. The decision on Mr Mainds' future should be made swiftly, for their sake and for his.