More than 1,000 patients undergo unnecessary surgery at the hands of a rouge surgeon
Ian Paterson was a consultant breast surgeon, employed by the NHS, and had practicing privileges in Private Healthcare (Spire) across the West Midlands for over 14 years. In 2017, Paterson was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and sentenced to jail for 20 years.
What did he do?
Paterson worked as a consultant breast surgeon throughout the NHS and Private Sectors across the West Midlands. He subjected hundreds of vulnerable people to life-changing, unnecessary surgery for no justifiable reason. Paterson knew the procedures ‘’were not needed but carried on regardless, inflicting unlawful wounds on his patients’’.
Paterson lied to his patients and told them that they had cancer and needed to perform mastectomy surgery to treat it. Those who did have cancer were left at risk of developing the disease again after Paterson performed an invented unofficial tissue-sparing procedure that left behind breast tissue.
Over 1,200 NHS patients were treated by Paterson. Around 675 have now died and 68 of his surviving patients have seen their cancer return. What makes this story even worse is that, patients were let down repeatedly over many years by multiple individuals and organisation failures. Complaints about Paterson date as far back as 2003 but inexcusable patient safety allowed him to carry on for over a decade because of a ‘’culture of avoidance and denial’’.
What Paterson committed for decades was wicked. But the blame also lies with the NHS and Private Health Sector, both failed to supervise him and respond suitably to well-evidence complaints. They proved themselves dysfunctional at almost every level when it came to patient safety. So far, the NHS has paid over £10m in compensation to his victims but an independent inquiry has recommended recalling 11,000 patients for surgery assessment.
Despite the conviction of Paterson, there was still unanswered questions about his malpractice and his patients called for a public inquiry into the case. This week, the inquiry published its report. There are numerous recommendations laid out to prevent anything like this occurring again and ensuring patient safety is top priority. The recommendations include:
Information to patients – Improvements in accessing performance data for surgeons, more effective and better communication with patients and transparency as to the arrangements for treatment and differences between private and NHS care.
Consent – A short period of reflection should be introduced into the process before patients give consent for surgical procedures. To allow patients time to reflect on their diagnosis and treatment options.
Multidisciplinary team – The CQC, as a matter of urgency, should assure itself that all hospital providers are complying effectively with up-to-date national guidance on MDT meetings.
Complaints – Information about the means to escalate a complaint to an independent body is communicated more effectively in both the NHS and private sector. It is also recommended that all private patients should have the right to mandatory independent resolution of their complaint.
Improving recall procedures – A national framework or protocol (with guidance) to be developed to manage and communicate with the recall of patients.
Clinical indemnity – As a matter of urgency, the government should reform the current regulation of indemnity products for healthcare professionals, and introduce a nationwide safety net to ensure patients are not disadvantaged.
Regulatory system – The government should ensure that the current system of regulation and the collaboration of the regulators serves patient safety as the top priority, given the ineffectiveness of the system identified in this inquiry.
Investigation healthcare professionals practice and behaviour – When a hospital investigates a healthcare professional’s behaviour, any perceived risk to patient safety should result in suspension of that individual. If that individual also works at another provider, any concerns about them should be communicated immediately.
Corporate accountability – When things go wrong, boards should apologise at the earliest stage of the investigation and not hold back from doing so for fear of the consequences.
The full report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/paterson-inquiry-report
Patients were let down by the healthcare system “at every level”. Victims of Paterson agree that all of the inquiry’s 15 recommendations must be implemented. If the government supports any of the concerned recommendations, appropriate legislation should be put in place to ensure that these are to be applicable across the whole sectors workload.
Carlos Lopez, Director of Clinical Negligence at Hampson Hughes comments: ” I have personally been involved in cases against this individual. Whilst Ian Paterson has been convicted, many of his victims have been left physically and mentally scarred. In some devastating cases, women are now dying as a result of a failure to correctly remove malignant tissue. We at Hampson Hughes understand the devastating impact of Ian Patersons actions and we are here to help and support you”.
If you or a member of your family have been affected by Ian Patterson and require advice, contact our expert and friendly Medical Negligence team: 0800 888 6888 or