Women who received controversial breast cancer operations from a surgeon who has been suspended until a GMC investigation is completed, have today spoken out strongly of their hurt and betrayal and called for ‘justice to be done’.

The surgeon, Ian Stuart Paterson, worked at a number of NHS and private hospitals from 1994, including Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Good Hope, Solihull and Heartlands Hospitals and Spire Parkway (Solihull) and Spire Little Aston.

An investigation into Mr Paterson by the General Medical Council potentially spans up to 700 cases of an unregulated (so-called ‘cleavage-sparing’) procedure that involved leaving some breast tissue behind after a mastectomy. In addition, up to 450 women may have had invasive breast surgery when a biopsy (which should have been done first) may have been sufficient.

Women spoke about their experiences

Paula Gelsthorpe, who is from Nottingham, had two lumpectomies when her condition was benign. She was one of six women who spoke about their experiences for the first time today at the offices of Thompson Solicitors in Birmingham.

“I feel betrayed and hurt and, right now, I just want justice to be done,” she said. “I’m speaking out to make people aware. I was oblivious to what was going on until I received a letter saying there were some irregularities with Mr Paterson.

“When I was told my operations had been totally unnecessary, I couldn’t believe it. I paid private health to have two lumpectomies and they were both unnecessary. I felt relieved at first, but now I feel angry and betrayed.”

Ms Gelsthorpe is one of nearly 100 women whose cases are being handled by Thompsons, a leading clinical negligence specialist firm that chooses only to work for claimants and not for insurance companies.

Medical negligence solicitor at Thompsons

“It is staggering this went on for such a long time, causing so much needless worry and risk,” said Kashmir Uppal, a senior medical negligence solicitor at Thompsons.

“The so-called ‘cleavage-sparing’ procedure increases the risk of cancer returning and the lumpectomies carried out without biopsies mean that some of these women had surgery they didn’t need.

“Where were the checks and balances to prevent this surgeon breaching national guidelines and continuing to do so over such a long period? What guarantee is there that these practices have not been used by other surgeons?”

Gail Boichat from Staffordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1995 and had a ‘cleavage sparing’ mastectomy carried out by Mr Paterson. However, earlier this year she was recalled by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and told the mastectomy had been unnecessary as her condition was actually benign.

“Every day of my life I have to look at myself knowing that I didn’t need the operation at all and I should never have looked like this,” she said.

“I think he should go to prison for what he has done – he’s a criminal in my eyes. If someone came up to me in the street and cut me with a knife they would be punished, so why shouldn’t he? This has turned my life upside down.”

Thompsons is pursuing claims for the women who have instructed them and is liaising with the General Medical Council, which regulates all doctors in the UK, with their investigation into these cases.

“The women who have come forward so far have been very brave. Hopefully all who have had unnecessary or inappropriate treatment will seek reassurance or justice. We will of course get the maximum compensation for those we act for but we also aim to ensure procedures are put in place to prevent anything like this ever happening again,” says Kashmir.

Thompsons has set up a helpline for women who may be affected – 0800 0 224 224