Disgraced breast surgeon, Ian Paterson, was convicted of multiple counts of wounding with intent on 28 April 2017, but have any lessons really been learned?
On the second anniversary [28 April] of Ian Paterson’s conviction for the unregulated and unnecessary breast operations he carried out on patients, Thompsons Solicitors is urging decision makers to evidence that they put patients before profits.
Ian Paterson was found guilty of multiple counts of wounding with intent on 28 April 2017 at Nottingham Crown Court and was eventually sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Thompsons Solicitors, which acted for 620 former patients of the disgraced breast surgeon, recently settled the last of its civil compensation claims for clients.
However, while the Paterson claims may be concluded, the issues that the case highlighted – of private healthcare providers continuing to shirk their responsibilities when things go wrong – remains very much a live issue. As a result, the firm has once more, two years on, issued a call for stricter regulation.
Linda Millband, national lead lawyer for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “We have just finished the third and final set of payments from the compensation package established for Mr Paterson’s former patients. That chapter may have closed, but his awful legacy will unfortunately live on for his victims.
“As we mark two years since Mr Paterson’s conviction, nothing has changed. Earlier this month we were heartened when the Royal College of Surgeons echoed our calls for independent hospitals to report the same patient safety and outcomes data as the NHS. Yet from the Department of Health there has been a wall of silence. It’s time the government listened and took decisive action to ensure parity wherever a patient is treated if we are to ensure history does not repeat itself. The gaping loophole in our health system that the Paterson case highlighted has not yet been closed.”
"We have just finished the third and final set of payments from the compensation package established for Mr Paterson’s former patients. That chapter may have closed, but his awful legacy will unfortunately live on for his victims."
While the NHS paid out compensation to those harmed by Paterson and took steps to address the failures that allowed him to practice, Spire Healthcare, the private healthcare provider responsible for two of the hospitals Mr Paterson operated from, initially dragged its feet and sought to evade responsibility by claiming it was essentially only a landlord. In the words of one Spire employee to a patient harmed by Mr Paterson ‘we only rented him a room’. At first, it refused to pay out in cases arising from treatment by Paterson at their hospitals in the West Midlands.
“No healthcare provider should be able to get away with having a patient poorly treated ‘on their watch’ but still be able to profit from that,” Ms Millband said. “Spire Healthcare will have made a great deal of money by allowing Ian Paterson to practice at their hospitals and they – along with all other private healthcare providers - should be held to the same standards and obligations of transparency, safety and accountability as the NHS. Patients need, and deserve, a legal guarantee that, regardless of where they are treated in the UK, if they are injured they will have the same remedies and opportunity for legal redress.”
Mr Paterson’s medical negligence ranged from performing invasive lumpectomies on patients when biopsies would have sufficed, to full mastectomies on women who did not have breast cancer.
He also carried out surgical techniques, called “cleavage sparing mastectomies”, on breast cancer patients at NHS and private hospitals in the Midlands that were not recognised in clinical practice. The procedure, the dangers of which were well known and widely rejected as a technique by medical regulators, put patients at greater risk of their cancer returning.
"It’s been two years since Ian Paterson was sentenced and for his victims, we live with what he did to us every day. We remember all of our friends who have died because he left breast tissue behind, increasing their risk of a reoccurrence of cancer cutting short their lives. He has never once admitted guilt or apologised for his crimes. He has agreed to speak to the inquiry, and I would like to face him and ask him why he did what he did to me and his thousands of victims over an almost 20 year period of carrying out unlawful operations. I hope the inquiry we fought for will bring about real changes in the system to prevent another rogue surgeon ever doing anything like this again."
A £37 million compensation package was approved by a High Court judge for the hundreds of private patients affected by his actions, including £27.2 million paid out by Spire Healthcare – the hospital group where Paterson treated his private patients – and £10 million provided by Paterson's insurers and his former employers, the Heart of England NHS Trust.
The NHS also reportedly paid out more than £17 million to around 270 NHS patients.
Patients Before Profits
Our Patients Before Profits campaign aims to expose and eliminate the 'liability loophole' in the justice system that exists for private healthcare providers, and to stop rogue surgeons like Paterson, from harming patients again.