AFTER recent delays the long-awaited findings of an independent Inquiry into the malpractice of rogue Midlands breast surgeon Ian Paterson are due to be published next month.
In 2017, Paterson was sentenced to 20 years in jail after carrying out unnecessary surgery on hundreds of patients who were left traumatised and scarred.
The consultant breast surgeon worked at hospitals run by the then Heart of England NHS Trust and practised privately at Bupa hospitals in Solihull and Sutton Coldfield, latterly run by Spire Healthcare.
The inquiry chaired by the Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, launched in January 2018, and is now expected to publish a report on February 4.
It was most recently due at the end of last year, but was delayed as a result of the general election, after another delay earlier last year.
Kashmir Uppal, specialist medical negligence solicitor at Shoosmiths, was involved in bringing the first civil case against Mr Paterson. If it were not for her team’s determined efforts to get to the truth, Paterson’s crimes may never have come to light.
She maintains that legislative changes are required to ensure nothing like this can happen again.
She said: “Despite the Inquiry’s non-statutory status, I am reassured that the Bishop, with the assistance of his investigating panel to whom I gave evidence, has conducted a thorough investigation including any further action needed to strengthen the CQC’s inspection regime.
“There is certainly more that can be done to correct poor practice in both the NHS and private sectors.
“While there is no doubt that Ian Paterson was a rogue individual, the entire healthcare sector – NHS and private – must do more to prevent someone like him from ever causing harm again. There must be stronger and effective clinical governance and protection for patients, regardless of whether they have their operation in an NHS hospital or in the independent sector.”
Ms Uppal insists that more information should be shared with the NHS about the operations surgeons are undertaking in the private sector and how they are performing.
Unexpected deaths, so-called ‘never events’ and serious injuries also have to be reported by private hospitals to the Care Quality Commission, but that data is not routinely published, she said.
The legal loophole that disadvantages private patients in particular needs legislation to bring it to an end.
Around 750 patients treated by Paterson in his private practice had to wait long and fight hard in order to receive compensation from Spire Healthcare.
Thompsons Solicitors in Birmingham also played a central role in bringing Mr Paterson’s negligence to light, and represents 620 patients.
Linda Millband, national practice lead for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The forthcoming Ian Paterson report must leave no stone unturned in the murky world of private healthcare that allowed a surgeon to operate unchecked for so long.
“Spire Healthcare will try and draw a line under the issue but there are ongoing concerns around a number of surgeons at their and other private hospitals. This report cannot be a conclusion but a new chapter. Those who pay for healthcare deserve measurably improved practice and patient safety commensurate as a minimum with standards expected of the NHS.”
One of Paterson’s patients, Sarah Jane Downing, an author from Solihull and client Thompsons’ client, who had surgery at Spire Parkway in 1988, co-ordinates a support group for victims. She said: “Once the Inquiry report is published I will be launching the fundraising for a Garden of Serenity – a memorial garden for all the Paterson victims who have not survived.”