A surgeon has been suspended over claims that he said a white colleague who returned from holiday with a suntan looked like a “jungle bunny”.
John Riddington Young, 58, was sent home on full pay pending a disciplinary investigation into the alleged “racist” incident.
A nurse is understood to have complained about the consultant’s comments during his daily rounds at the North Devon Hospital in Barnstaple.
But patients have condemned the suspension as a waste of valuable resources.
Mr Riddington Young, an ear, nose and throat specialist and a colonel with the Territorial Army, was suspended two weeks ago.
When news of the affair became public, he was allowed to return to work while the investigation continues.
The spokesman denied the resumption of his work routine was in response to unwanted publicity.
“It is absolute madness to suspend him. He is a dignified and important man and they treated him like a naughty schoolboy.”
Considered by fellow doctors to be something of an eccentric, he has published a treatise on medicine in English poetry, and uses slides of old masters while teaching students.
He has also written a book about the inns and taverns of old Norwich, a history of his local church and a medical book entitled Offbeat Otolaryngology, the official name for the ENT specialism.
His interests are listed on a medical website as: “Ferret breeder, woodcarver, arable farmer and Punch and Judy man who grows prize-winning sweet peas”. The surgeon achieved notoriety in 1997 when he was a witness in a trial in which a husband was found guilty of assaulting his wife by shouting so hard it injured her hearing.
The case was halted and restarted with a new jury after a bizarre incident in which he gave an impromptu consultation to a deaf juror in the court canteen.