A full public inquiry is to be held into the case of a disgraced Tayside brain surgeon who harmed and injured dozens of patients.

Prof Sam Eljamel worked at NHS Tayside from 1995 until he was suspended in December 2013.

Confirming the plans in a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Health Secretary Michael Matheson said a full inquiry with powers to compel witnesses to give evidence "is the only route to get to the bottom of who knew what and when and what contributed to the failures".

NHS Tayside has come under fire after a due diligence report published last week revealed that it had placed Prof Eljamel under "light touch" supervision in June 2013 despite complaints, and allowed him to continue operating until he was suspended in December 2013. 

Despite being under investigation and facing complaints from at least 55 patients, Prof Eljamel subsequently resigned and removed himself from the UK medical register in 2015. 

He is now believed to be working as a surgeon in Libya. 

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Mr Matheson said the due diligence report "laid bare the failings in NHS Tayside’s response to concerns over Mr Eljamel". 

He said: "It is clear from this review that these were not acted upon or followed up with the urgency and rigour they deserved.

"Now, years later, many former patients still live with the consequences and still have many unanswered questions."

Mr Eljamel practised as a consultant neurosurgeon at NHS Tayside between 1995 and 2013, becoming the head of neurosurgery at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. 

Concerns were first raised in 2011 and 2012, and following investigations into two separate signficant adverse events NHS Tayside commissioned an external review into his practice which was undertaken by the Royal College of Surgeons in England. 

However, there have been mounting calls for a public inquiry into the scandal in recent years, backed by nearly 150 of the surgeon's former patients. 

A police inquiry is also ongoing. 

Mr Matheson said he was not initially in favour of a public inquiry "knowing the length of time that could take, and knowing that it would not necessarily consider each individual patient’s circumstances".

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However, his opinion had "significantly changed" following revelations in the due diligence report. 

"It outlines a number of failings that I believe can only be examined thoroughly by a public inquiry," said Mr Matheson.

"It also brings forward significant information not previously known to the Scottish Government.

"Given the length of time since the first concerns were raised about Mr Eljamel, this raises real concerns."

This included adverse events "where no investigation can be identified and no reports of adverse events were formally recorded until several months following the incidents"; no effective central Board oversight; and and a failure by NHS Tayside to respond to the General Medical Council when Prof Eljamel applied for a voluntary erasure from the medical register. 

Earlier in the day, during First Minister's Questions, Humza Yousaf described Prof Eljamel's actions as "despicable".

He added: "In commissioning the inquiry, it remains important that those people directly affected are still supported to find the answers they need and that both staff and patients across Scotland know that lessons are being learned."

Asked by Conservative MSP Liz Smith whether a victim support fund for those impacted could be considered, Mr Yousaf said there are "established avenues for patients who have suffered as a result of the NHS to be able to claim compensation".

However, he added that other options could be explored.

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It comes after a review of patients' medical records by expert neurosurgeon, Donald Campbell - commissioned as part of a BBC investigation, with patients' consent - revealed that the medic had over-stated an operation’s chances of success in at least one patient's case. 

In another, he appeared to have opened the patient up in theatre but failed to remove any bone or discs despite telling the patient that the surgery had taken place.