The independent inquiry tasked with investigating a rogue surgeon who operated at private and NHS hospitals in the Midlands has delayed publishing its findings yet again, citing the General Election as the reason and sparking further frustration from ex-patients and campaigners.
Ian Paterson was convicted of multiple counts of wounding with intent at Nottingham Crown Court on the 27 April 2017, after it emerged he had been giving guideline-breaching cleavage sparring mastectomies to NHS cancer patients, and unnecessary breast surgeries to patients treated privately at Spire Hospitals in the Midlands – telling some they had cancer when they did not.
The Paterson Inquiry, which was launched in December 2017 and is chaired by The Right Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich, has come under fire after the Inquiry website was updated to say the report’s findings would be delayed until after the General Election. This is the second time victims have been made to wait for long awaited answers, as the Inquiry was originally due to publish its findings in summer 2019.
Social justice law firm Thompsons Solicitors played a central role in bringing Mr Paterson’s negligence to light, and led the civil case against him. In 2017, the firm secured court approval on a package of £37 million in damages for ex-patients of the rogue surgeon.
Thompsons has joined ex-patients in criticising this latest delay – arguing that it is in the public interest for the full facts of how, and why, Paterson was able to operate unchecked for so long, to be reported as soon as possible.
Linda Millband from Thompsons Solicitors, who represented 620 patients in claims against the surgeon, said: “A General Election doesn’t wipe out the need for private healthcare providers to improve their safety record, or prevent other doctors from engaging in similar behaviour to Mr Paterson. This issue must not become a political football to be kicked into the long grass."
Sarah Jane Downing, an author from Solihull, underwent surgery with Mr Paterson at Spire Parkway in 1998 after she found a lump. Mr Paterson performed a surgical procedure that has since been found to be wholly unnecessary; instead of removing potentially cancerous tissue, he instead removed perfectly healthy breast tissue.
Commenting on the delay to the Inquiry, Sarah Jane said: “It is a great shame that the publication of the report has been suspended until the New Year. We are told that a new publication date in early January will be given but there must be a risk that it either gets buried under or delayed by the upheaval of Brexit.
“When you consider that the first survivors reported what Paterson had done to them in 2012, we have been living with this for a horrifically long time and to have to wait longer still is disappointing and difficult.
“The Inquiry team appear to have worked diligently to create a report that represents us and reflects our feelings about the life-altering, and in more than 700 cases, the catastrophic and fatal effects of the wrongful and unnecessary surgery forced upon us at Solihull Hospital and Spire Healthcare's Parkway and Little Aston Hospitals. We hold out every hope that when the report is eventually published its recommendations will address the flaws and fundamental problems within UK healthcare - particularly the private healthcare sector - that we experienced first-hand.”
Debbie Douglas was among those who lobbied Parliament for the inquiry after enduring an unnecessary cleavage-sparing mastectomy by Paterson in 2003, and chairs the breast cancer support group Breast Friends Solihull. Debbie commented: “Hundreds of women who suffered at the hands of Ian Paterson have already waited too long for the findings of this report. The time has been ticking for answers and the delay is another blow.
“However, I would rather wait and have the report findings properly reviewed by government instead of lost in the debacle of Brexit and now the election. The government need to act on the findings and put systems in place to prevent something like this ever happening again so that I, and his other victims, will not have suffered for nothing and those victims that are no longer with us will not have died in vain.”