The Royal College of Surgeons has issued an open letter urging change, following the conviction of breast surgeon Ian Paterson
The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has echoed Thompsons Solicitors' call for the focus on patient safety to be the same in both the public and private sector following the actions of disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson.
Paterson was found guilty in April of 17 counts of wounding with intent, and three of unlawful wounding after being tried for carrying out unnecessary operations on 10 patients that left some in permanent pain. He is awaiting sentencing.
The case has prompted the RCS to issue an open letter, warning that the public availability of patient safety and clinical data from private hospitals is poorer than from the NHS, and reiterating Thompsons’ calls for a government review into how safety standards and transparency can improve.
While keen to reassure the public that the vast majority of doctors are diligent and committed to their patients, and that rogue doctors should be caught by modern rules governing medical practice, the professional body warned there was no room for complacency. As Thompsons has been calling for since last year, the RCS wants private hospitals to be obliged to report data on serious injuries, unexpected deaths and "never events", which refer to serious and preventable incidents.
The RCS Council plans to review the Paterson case and judgment to understand why doctors were unable to spot, or unwilling to challenge, Paterson's malpractice.
"There must be greater accountability from private health care providers for what happens on their watch and from which they make substantial profit."
Linda Millband national lead lawyer of the Thompsons Solicitors medical negligence team
The surgeon worked for years at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham, which has settled at least 250 cases, as well as at Spire Healthcare Parkway and Little Ashton hospitals, which provide private healthcare.
Thompsons Solicitors is pursuing compensation for more than 350 of Paterson's private clients, having begun uncovering his malpractice in 2009.
"We welcome the RCS' calls for greater transparency in the private sector, which is something Thompsons has been demanding for some time," said Linda Millband, national lead lawyer of the Thompsons Solicitors medical negligence team.
"However, our Patients Before Profit campaign goes further than the RCS in calling for greater regulation of private care and for private patients to have the same legal protection as those in NHS care. For our campaign to succeed, the government needs to act but the profession also has to be willing to change, and this letter is a positive sign of a willingness to do so.
"I have met and spoken with hundreds of Ian Paterson's patients. They placed their full trust not only in him, but also in the places he practised from. The NHS has accepted where it failed in its duty of care and has compensated patients of Paterson. Unfortunately, private provider Spire has so far shirked its responsibility claiming, shockingly, that they simply rented their facilities to him, which questions the whole premise understood by and upon which people take up private health care. There must be greater accountability from private health care providers for what happens on their watch and from which they make substantial profit."
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