Speaking on Tuesday 4 February 2020, an hour after the report was made public, Linda Millband, national practice lead for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, commented:
“For there to be real change following the Inquiry’s report, the focus must not be on what Paterson did or didn’t do, but how he got away with it.
“The report calls for fundamental reforms in the private medical sector and if we want to avoid seeing the horrors of Paterson again, the recommendations must be acted upon by the sector and enforced without fear or favour by the government. Anything less would be an insult to the hundreds of women and men whose lives have been forever changed by Paterson.
“If we are going to hold our heads up as a country with excellent healthcare, then regardless of where a patient goes for treatment, they should be able to expect the same level of support, professionalism and insurance cover. Up to now the private health sector has been offering something very different from the NHS but has not been open about that.
“Private hospitals have at long last been exposed for not fully informing their patients (whether privately funded or referred by the NHS) about how care is organised differently than the NHS. The difference in insurance cover and the lack of emergency provision, not to mention the absence or questionable quality of their multidisciplinary team working at private hospitals has been laid bare for all to see.
“Spire Healthcare sought to shrug off Paterson patients as if they were a nuisance, daring to challenge their hospitals’ way of working. The report makes clear that there has to be corporate accountability and that there is no excuse for evading liability.
“The private healthcare sector has sought to present itself as somehow better than the NHS but the Inquiry’s report has exploded that myth. Private healthcare providers cannot be allowed to crawl back under the stone that has been lifted by the Independent Inquiry’s report and carry on in their secretive ways”.
As a minimum, with immediate effect, we would like to see:
1 – The end of private healthcare sector exploitation of regulatory distinctions that would never be acceptable in the NHS. Private healthcare has comfortably taken advantage of the myth that it is better and safer than the NHS when the facts and the results prove otherwise.
2 - Private hospitals must no longer be able to evade liability when things go wrong by saying that they don’t employ the consultants who work there. It happened in Paterson and it is happening in other cases we are running today – notably against surgeons operating at the same Spire Hospitals Paterson did.
3 - Insurance cover in private medicine has to be as good as, and as effective, as that available to patients injured by the NHS but the reality is, right now, it’s nowhere near equivalent.
4 - Patients have to be provided with a clear picture of where private provision doesn’t measure up to NHS care, for example in emergency cover or post-operative care.
5 - There must be multidisciplinary teams working in all private hospitals – it’s standard in the NHS but almost non-existent in the private sector.
6 - The Care Quality Commission must be provided with the same performance data, in the same format from the private sector as it demands of the NHS in order to create a clear and consistent picture of patient safety across the board.