Published by BBC NEWS - 11th September 2023
  • Published
Tony Dixon, mesh pioneer

A hospital review of mesh operations by a surgeon who left dozens of patients in agony is now looking into another type of procedure he carried out.

Tony Dixon, who used mesh surgery to treat bowel problems, has always maintained he did the operations in good faith.

Now it has emerged that other patients who had their rectum stapled are also being written to.

Spire Hospital Bristol said its “comprehensive” review remains ongoing.

Mr Dixon pioneered the use of artificial mesh to lift prolapsed bowels and a review of the care he gave patients receiving Laparoscopic ventral mesh rectopexy has already concluded.

Now the Spire has contacted patients who underwent a Stapled Transanal Rectal Resection (STARR operation) with Mr Dixon.

Many of the affected patients have told the BBC they did not give informed consent for the procedure and are in chronic pain.

Debbie Cooper

Image source, Debbie Cooper

The STARR operation is performed on some patients who have such severe problems having a poo, their rectum may slide inside itself.

Debbie Cooper had a STARR procedure with Tony Dixon when he worked at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol in 2009.

The 56-year old from Gloucester said it did not work and she ended up seeing Mr Dixon privately at the Spire to try and sort out her pain.

‘Incredibly painful’

She believes she should have been offered non-surgical treatments before undergoing a second operation which left her with wound breakdown in a really painful area.

“It was incredibly painful, incredibly traumatic.”


Professional guidelines say any tests and scans have to be done before the invasive surgery is approved.

Jim Sharples

Jim Sharples has just been written to by the Spires’s review team about his STARR operation in 2015.

He claims Tony Dixon did not have his full consent for the operation.

Mr Sharples said: “Tony [Dixon] sold this to me as ‘you are in pain, you want it done right now’.

“I thought I would have it [at a later date].

“Then after having what was meant to be a haemorrhoidectomy, I wake up and he said ‘I performed a STARR operation on you’.

“I had not consented to that.”

He added that the operation has changed his life and means he can no longer enjoy activities like camping with his family.

“Every day I prolapse, when I go to the toilet I have faecal incontinence,” he said.

“I have an urgency in needing to go to the toilet.

“None of this was ever discussed with me because I wasn’t going in to have a STARR operation.

“I get high levels of anxiety if I have not been to the toilet.

“It’s not a pleasant quiet affair, going to the toilet. It’s a real mess and all because I had an operation which I didn’t require.”

STARR involves removing a section of the rectal wall using a special stapling device.

The BBC has also been contacted by a woman who had the STARR procedure at the Spire Hospital in 2009.

She has received a letter from the hospital asking her to take part in their review.

The patient prefers to remain anonymous, but told the BBC: “I have had difficulties since this procedure which have impacted quite seriously on my life.

“I was led to believe that this was just me being awkward and, quite frankly, the trauma of the post-op period was so stressful that I have blocked most of it out.”

In a statement, Spire Bristol said it had apologised and provided support to all who received a poor standard of care.

A spokesman said: “We and the local NHS Trust have worked together to review the care of patients treated by Mr Dixon at the NHS Trust and at Spire.

“The NHS Trust’s review is now complete. Spire is undertaking a comprehensive review, which remains ongoing.”

Mr Dixon, who was dismissed in 2019, has always maintained the operations were done in good faith, and that any surgery could have complications.

He is due to appear before a Medical Practitioners Tribunal on 11 September.

Spire Healthcare added senior clinicians had looked back at the care Mr Dixon provided for LVMR patients over a 20-year period.

The spokesman said: “Out of an abundance of caution, we are now taking the additional step of reaching out to patients who had the STARR procedure with Mr Dixon, to review their care.”

If any Spire Bristol Hospital patients feel they should have been contacted or have concerns about their care under Mr Dixon, they are urged to call a dedicated helpline on 0800 783 8163 or email

Presentational grey line

Follow BBC West on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Send your story ideas to:




Tel: +44 (0) 141 946 6482

Address: Healthcare Skills Training International Ltd
West of Scotland Science Park
Block 7, Kelvin Campus
Glasgow G20 0SP


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from Healthcare Skills International . You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact