Ian Paterson inquiry: culture of denial allowed surgeon to continue harming patients

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In 2017, surgeon Ian Patterson was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent in relation to unnecessary and inappropriate “cleavage-sparing” mastectomies performed on NHS and private sector patients.

An independent inquiry into the care provided by Mr Paterson has today revealed that concerns were raised about his practice as early as 2003 when a colleague in oncology reported concerns that women were at increased risk of cancer recurring as a result of Mr Paterson leaving too much tissue behind after surgery.

Despite an internal investigation taking place, Mr Paterson was able to continuing operating on the NHS and at the Spire private hospital who were unaware of the concerns that had been raised. The inquiry has recommended that 11,000 patients who received treatment from Paterson should now be reassessed.

Other recommendations made by the inquiry include:

  •  promoting the sharing of information between NHS and private hospitals when an individual is subject to disciplinary proceedings and ensuring that the individual is suspended if their behaviour presents a risk to patients
  • the creation of a single repository of the whole practice of consultants across England, setting out critical performance data including the number of times a procedure has been performed and how recently it was last performed
  • a mandatory “period of reflection” for patients to consider the consultant’s advice before proceeding to surgery
  • reform of the current regulation of indemnity products to ensure that patients are not left uncompensated by insurers who withdraw cover following adverse incidents
  • an apology should be issued at the earliest stage of the investigation and should not be withheld for fear of consequences in respect of their legal liability
  • ensuring that standards and regulations are applied correspondingly across the NHS and the private sector to promote patient safety.

Mark White, a chartered legal executive at Ashtons Legal, comments: “Whilst it is encouraging to see that the Paterson Inquiry has identified a number of shortcomings in the supervision of Ian Paterson’s career, it is important to note that these are not unique to this case and are replicated throughout the NHS. It is commonplace for Consultants to work across several hospitals and, therefore, it is crucial that the Government heeds the recommendations made and ensures that concerns about clinicians are properly investigated and communicated to other Trusts and healthcare providers. It is also promising to see that the Inquiry has raised the shortcomings of discretionary indemnity insurance and these recommendations will help to ensure that patients at private hospitals are subject to the same safeguards as their NHS counterparts.”


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