A lawyer representing hundreds of former patients of disgraced rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson has called on the government to provide greater protections for whistleblowers following Lucy Letby’s guilty verdict [18 August 2023].

The calls follow claims that several senior consultants raised concerns about Letby as early as June 2015 – almost two years before the police were notified. The senior consultants claim hospital management dismissed the allegations, telling them to “draw a line under the Lucy issue”.

Linda Millband, the head of group actions at Thompsons Solicitors, said there were clear parallels between the cases of Letby and Paterson. She said:

“If the allegations made by the consultants are true, this is another shocking example of what can happen when a hospital's reputation is put above patient safety.

“Whistleblowers' concerns should always be taken seriously, and they should get full protection, to ensure they can come forward safely with their concerns.

“What is particularly worrying from this weekend’s revelations is that even the most senior medical team members, the consultants who tried to alert the hospital executive to their concerns, were allegedly ignored. What hope is there for other less senior team members to be taken seriously and hope to call out negligence and even murder?

“I would also like to see the inquiry look at mandatory reporting for hospitals where concerns have been raised over alleged criminality, reputation is never an excuse not to involve the proper authorities.

“There are tragic parallels that can be drawn between the handling of Lucy Letby’s and Ian Paterson’s negligence. Concerns about Paterson were raised as early as 2003, but he wasn’t suspended from practising until 2011.

“Much has been said about needing to learn lessons from his crimes, but if the reports about the hospital management’s reaction to concerns over Lucy Letby are correct, then the same grave errors are being made time and time again.

“It is time the government steps up and creates an environment where whistleblowers can raise concerns without fear of reprisal.”

Ian Paterson, who was jailed in 2017, told hundreds of his patients they had cancer when they didn’t. He also performed ‘cleavage sparing mastectomies’ on many more women who did have cancer – many of whom have since died.

The deaths of hundreds of former Paterson patients are the subject of fresh investigations, revealed earlier this year. There are currently 36 deaths in particular that will be reviewed in new inquests. A pre-inquest review hearing is anticipated to be listed for late 2023, and final hearings are expected to begin in late 2024.