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An independent inquiry into the malpractice of breast surgeon Ian Paterson has been published and reveals the serious oversight of the healthcare services. Over the course of a 14-year period, Paterson saw and operated on thousands of women, often unnecessarily, in private hospital Spire and in Solihull Hospital, which was part of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT).

In 2003, clinical colleagues first raised suspicions about Paterson’s activity. It was not until 2011 that he was suspended by HEFT, and later that year Spire suspended his right to practice at their hospitals. Paterson was never formally arrested by the police, but was given a postal requisition and summoned to Magistrates’ Court to face criminal charges.

In April 2017, he was found to have “breached patients’ trust and abused his power”. Paterson was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding, and was sent to prison for 15 years. This sentence was later challenged and found by the Court of Appeal to be too lenient. In August of 2017, four months after his initial sentencing, Ian Paterson’s sentence was increased to 20 years.

In December 2017, the government commissioned an inquiry to investigate malpractice, the human cost of his actions and the failure of the healthcare system to stop this malicious individual. It did so as it believed that neither the NHS or private healthcare providers had acted soon enough to stop Paterson.

The inquiry heard from 211 people who were patients or family members of patients. Many of his patients were referred to him by their general practitioner, with one patient’s GP describing Paterson as “the top cancer specialist in the country”. Paterson put patients at risk by operating needlessly on women who didn’t have cancer, or performing a ‘cleavage-sparing mastectomy’ - a cosmetic alternative to traditional mastectomy, which left behind potentially cancerous cells that could spread.

Some patients who shared their story as part of the inquiry have still not been contacted by the hospitals, and to this day are unsure whether they were ever at risk.

The inquiry concluded that there had been a “series of failures to respond well”, and that Paterson “could have been stopped from practising in 2003, and should have been stopped in 2007, rather than 2011”. The outcome of the inquiry was a series of recommendations for NHS and private healthcare providers about corporate and individual accountability, along with the culture in the hospitals and wider community.

Michael Saul, partner at Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors commented; “Reading the experiences of patients and their family members is truly shocking. To think that so many people had experienced such gross negligence, and that their cases were not detected by the NHS or private hospitals for so long is unforgivable. Many people have suffered the lasting results of Ian Paterson’s negligence and in the worst cases, people have died as a result of secondary cancers.”

If you’re worried about a procedure having gone wrong at the hands of a surgeon, you should seek assistance as soon as you can. If you’re worried that your surgeon or the clinic you went to were negligent, get in touch with our expert solicitors today on INSERT PHONE NUMBER, or by using a contact form on the website.

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