Cancer surgeon scandal may widen as victims name other hospitals

Mark Townsend
Consultant surgeon Ian Paterson was convicted on Friday of 17 counts of wounding with intent. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The scandal surrounding the rogue surgeon Ian Paterson is likely to widen after lawyers revealed on Saturday that they are receiving allegations implicating other hospitals and specialists.

On Friday, Paterson, 59, a consultant surgeon, was found guilty of carrying out needless breast operations in a scandal that has forced the NHS to pay almost £10m in compensation to more than 250 of his patients, though the true number of victims could eventually run into the thousands.

Paterson was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent, relating to nine women and one man in the West Midlands, with the jury at Nottingham crown court deciding the surgeon carried out “extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason” on them between 1997 and 2011.

The law firm Slater and Gordon said that in the aftermath of Paterson’s conviction it was already receiving calls from potential victims alleging needless operations and naming other individual clinicians and hospitals.

Emma Doughty, clinical negligence solicitor at the London law firm, said: “It’s amazing that since yesterday people have come forward. I’ve already had three or four more people contacting me about things that have happened in other places, so I think there’s a lot more people out there, different individuals and different surgeries.”

Doughty said: “I’m sure there are other surgeons doing not very nice things in other places, purely because of what I’ve learned in relation to the private sector and how it’s managed. I’m sure there are other people who can get away with doing other things, not necessarily on [Paterson’s] scale, but that remains to be seen.”

It was also confirmed On Saturday that 350 women were now seeking compensation and bringing a high court case against Paterson, who was described in court by one victim as being “like God”, with the jury hearing that he carried out the operations for “obscure motives” which possibly might have included a financial incentive. The surgeon, who treated thousands of patients during his career, exaggerated or invented cancer risks and claimed payments for more expensive procedures in some cases.

Paterson, of Altrincham, Greater Manchester, was also found guilty of three counts of unlawful wounding.

The seven-week trial heard the accounts of 10 victims – representing a sample of those Paterson treated – operated on at the privately run Little Aston and Parkway hospitals in the West Midlands.

Doughty said the case demonstrated the need for an independent inquiry into the private health sector, adding that there was far too little official scrutiny of such practices.

“There should be an independent inquiry, certainly in relation to the private sector. There should be much more regulation regarding the intertwining of the NHS and the private sector. We’re doing all we can with the civil proceedings to find out what happened, but there’s a limit to what the civil case can do to ensure safeguards are put in place.”

A review of the Heart of England NHS trust, which covers the West Midlands, revealed that a senior clinician raised concerns about Paterson’s mastectomies in 2004, meaning that there was a seven-year delay in stopping him operating on women with breast cancer.

Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, who looked into the case, said, if the concerns had been acted on then, a “proper analysis of Paterson’s performance would have been instituted”.

Kennedy added: “It is very likely that the result would have been that Paterson would have been required to stop operating on women with breast cancer by the end of 2004 at the latest.”

Doughty said: “It’s clear that we need much more regulation in the private sector. The Kennedy review for the NHS was very thorough, but we’ve not had the same in the private sector yet.”

Jurors were not told Paterson carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients, with a hospital trust paying out £17.8m in damages and legal costs. He was granted bail and is due to be sentenced in May.

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