A LEADING Southend Hospital surgeon has died suddenly, prompting heartfelt tributes from colleagues and patients.

Neil Rothnie, consultant breast surgeon and medical director, died on Sunday night – just a day after “leading from the front” at Southend Hospital.

The hospital stressed there was “no reason to believe” that Mr Rothnie’s death is related to Covid-19.

Colleagues praised him as a dedicated and hard-working member of the team as heartbroken patients queued up to pay their own tributes to the man whose dedicated, kind and compassionate work touched so many lives.

Chief executive Clare Panniker said: “Neil was a much-loved, dedicated and hard-working member of the team. He was with us in the hospital on Saturday, leading from the front.

“Our thoughts are with his family.”

In a statement sent to staff by Ms Panniker and managing director, Yvonne Blucher, the hospital said: “It is with extreme sadness that we have to share the news that our medical director, Neil Rothnie, died last night.

“Neil will be hugely missed. A hard-working and committed doctor, he was with is in the hospital on Saturday, leading from the front.”

Mr Rothnie is noted for setting up the specialist breast unit at Southend and he also developed the “open access” hernia service.

GP Dr Krishna Chaturvedi, based at Shoebury Health Centre, worked with Mr Rothnie for many years.

He said: “I’m totally lost for words, I cannot even describe what this is like.

“He was such a wonderful, talented and lovely guy. He really was a smashing chap.”

He was a leading light for the highly successful Bosom Pals appeal which raised £750,000 for high-tech equipment to help breast cancer patients.

He was the director of screening for South Essex Breast Screening Service and lead clinician for breast services.

Mr Rothnie qualified as a doctor from St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London in 1981.

He undertook postgraduate surgical training in and around London, including a stint as a surgical registrar at Southend Hospital in the 1980s.

A period in cancer research at Bristol Royal Infirmary and the Royal Free Hospital led to the award of a Master of Surgery degree from the University of London.

He was a senior registrar at St Bartholomew’s prior to his appointment as a consultant general surgeon at Southend Hospital in 1994.

He spent 16 years as surgical lead to the regional quality assurance team for the NHS Breast Screening Programme and has led the National Breast Screening Audit.

Mr Rothnie was appointed medical director in December 2012.

Dr Chaturvedi added: “He was actually a very humble chap, even though he was so talented.

“He was always very proactive in his approach to surgery, the patients always gave him good feedback.

“There was also great leadership skills.

“His wife is also a GP, a very good one, but the loss for her must be awful.

“My condolences to all of his family.”

“It is such a terrible loss.”