Government officials have turned their backs on a Birmingham University study which could be used to identify rogue surgeons.

The research, which looked at the work of 139 consultant gynaecologists, identified eight medics in the West Midlands as 'outliers' - whose performance could be called into question.

The study was undertaken after consultant gynaecologist Rodney Ledward was struck off after he was found guilty of bungling 13 operations at two Kent hospitals.

Ledward was suspended from William Harvey Hospital in Ashford in 1996 and struck off in 1998. The Ritchie Inquiry in 2000 heard how he left women maimed, scarred and emotionally damaged by carrying out botched or inappropriate surgery.

Dr Mike Harley, who led the study published in today's British Medical Journal, said the statistical model - completed in December 2001 - had been "largely ignored" by the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

He believes if this system is not implemented, similar cases could slip through the NHS's net undetected. "The Chief Medical Officer's department didn't like it as the Freedom of Information Act has just come in - they're worried the public will want to know who these people are," he said.

"Surely, we should be identifying outliers and investigating them further, but their main concern was people would over react to it.

"No further action is being taken against the eight identified consultants, although the DoH have asked for their names."

Last night, the DoH would not comment specifically on the study but issued a statement.

It read: "In January, the Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, was tasked with leading a review into patient safety as part of the Department of Health's response to the Shipman Inquiry. He will report later this year to minimise any delay to the introduction of measures to both improve patient safety and ensure doctors are fit to practice."