Inquiry recommends the recall of 11,000 patients who underwent breast cancer surgery by a British doctor found guilty of intentional harm

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A culture of “avoidance and denial” allowed a breast surgeon to perform botched and unnecessary operations on hundreds of women, a report has found.

BBC reports that an independent inquiry into Ian Paterson’s malpractice has recommended the recall of his 11,000 patients for their surgery 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 report says that Debbie Douglas, who underwent “needless” surgery while in Paterson’s care, said all of the report’s 15 recommendations must be implemented.

The disgraced breast surgeon worked with cancer patients at NHS and private hospitals in the West Midlands over 14 years.

The inquiry said that the victims were initially let down by a consultant surgeon who performed inappropriate or unnecessary procedures and operations. It adds that the patients were then let down both by an NHS trust and an independent healthcare provider who failed to supervise him appropriately and did not respond correctly to well-evidenced complaints about his practice.

“Once action was finally taken, patients were again let down by wholly inadequate recall procedures in both the NHS and the private sector. The recall of patients did not put their safety and care first, which led many of them to consider the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust and Spire were primarily concerned for their own reputation.”

The inquiry further points to the fact that patients were further let down when they complained to regulators and believed themselves frequently treated with disdain.

They then felt let down by the Medical Defence Union which used its discretion to avoid giving compensation to Paterson patients once it was clear his malpractice was criminal. Only by taking their cases to sympathetic lawyers did some patients find themselves heard.

“By that stage many others found their exhaustion was too great and their sense of rejection so complete that they scarcely had the emotional or physical strength to fight any further. Even today, many patients, especially those treated within Spire hospitals, have no individual care plan. Thousands of people are still living with the consequences of what happened. It is wishful thinking that this could not happen again

The Inquiry team were told by regulators and other witnesses that procedures and processes had tightened up considerably in the past decade. We were informed that the regulatory system was more vigilant, and patient safety was now given a much higher priority so
that another Paterson would be unlikely.

We acknowledge many areas of improvement in processes and procedures. But in Paterson’s years of practice, there were many regulations and guidelines in place which were disregarded or simply ignored, and not just by him.

The report conclude that itwas striking that regulators testified to major improvements which they thought would identify another Paterson, while the clinicians we met believed that, despite the changes, it was entirely possible that something similar could happen now. The testimony of those on the front line is telling.


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