A culture of "avoidance and denial" was what allowed a breast surgeon to perform unnecessary operations on hundreds of women, a report has found. An inquiry into Ian Paterson's clinical negligence and malpractice has recommended the recall of his 11,000 patients for their treatment to be assessed. Paterson is serving a 20-year jail term for 17 counts of wounding with intent. One of Paterson's colleagues has been referred to police and five more to health watchdogs by the inquiry. The disgraced breast surgeon worked with cancer patients at NHS and private hospitals in the West Midlands for nearly 2 decades seeing hundreds if not thousands of patients.
His unregulated "cleavage-sparing" mastectomies, in which breast tissue was left behind, meant the disease returned in many of his patients. Others had surgery they did not need - some even finding out years later they did not have cancer. Patients were let down by the healthcare system "at every level" said the inquiry chair, retired Bishop of Norwich the Rt Revd Graham James, who identified "multiple individual and organisational failures".
Paterson was claiming that there was some sort of cancer hotspot in Solihull.
Among the report's recommendations were:
It should be made standard practice for consultants to write directly to patients to explain proposed surgical treatment
A public register should be created detailing which types of operations surgeons are able to perform
Patients should be allowed time to reflect on their diagnosis and treatment options before they are asked to consent to surgery
Information must be communicated more effectively to patients on how to escalate a complaint
Private hospitals, as well as NHS ones, must be made to follow the recommendations
In his report, Bishop James said: "The suffering described; the callousness; the wickedness; the failures on the part of individuals and institutions as well as Paterson himself - these are vividly described in what patients told us.
"The scale of what happened, the length of time this malpractice went on; the terrible legacy for so many families; it is difficult to exaggerate the damage done, including to trust in medical organisations."
23 patients died after being treated by Patterson and these are now the subject of a coroner and police investigation.
"Healthcare system was dysfunctional at every level when it came to keeping patients safe. And this was less than a decade ago."
The Bishops Report continued, "This capacity for wilful blindness is illustrated by the way in which Paterson's behaviour and aberrant clinical practice was excused or even favoured"
"Many simply avoided or worked round him. Some could have known, while others should have known, and a few must have known."
Solicitor Graham Balmforth of Law Med was among the first solicitors to bring actions against both the Spire Hospital and the West Midlands NHS Trusts for actions against Mr Patterson before even the conviction was enforced. He and his colleague Ms. Sophie Mcgowan had over 35 such actions which were settled under the class action. At the time that the conviction was upheld, many actions were then transferred for conclusion under the settlement agreement with the spire.
Mr Balmforth remains open to instruction regarding actions against the trust or for cosmetic or plastic surgery claims generally.