Hundreds seeking compensation over 'needless' breast surgery by convicted surgeon

Sean Morrison
Guilty: Former breast surgeon Ian Paterson: PA

Hundreds of patients of a surgeon who was convicted of carrying out needless breast operations are seeking compensation over the "devastation" wreaked by his crimes.

The NHS has paid out almost £18 million after settling the cases of more than 250 patients treated by top surgeon Ian Paterson, 59, who was described in court by one victim as being "like God".

On Friday he was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding against 10 patients.

One solicitor has said the rogue surgeon could have "hundreds, if not thousands" of other victims.

Former breast surgeon Ian Paterson has been convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding (PA)

Now it has been announced that around 350 patients who underwent treatment privately at clinics owned by Spire Healthcare in the West Midlands are taking civil action against him and the firm.

Thompsons Solicitors, a firm representing the patients, said the company's treatment of those who complained was "shabby".

"We are determined to secure appropriate compensation for every single one of our clients, some of whom found the courage to come forward only as recently as four weeks ago," said Linda Millband, the firm’s lead national lawyer.

"Spire needs to face up to its responsibilities, because they let him operate well after he was suspended by the NHS."

Debbie Douglas, pictured, underwent treatment by Ian Paterson (PA)

A Freedom of Information request revealed the NHS has resolved 256 cases, paying out £9.5 million in compensation and £8.2 million in costs, while a further 25 cases are still to be heard.

The surgeon, who was suspended by the General Medical Council in 2012, lied to patients and exaggerated or invented the risk of cancer in order to convince them to go under the knife.

Ms Millband said the "dangerous regulatory loophole" allowed Paterson to continue practising privately despite the ban.

Frances Perks also underwent treatment by Ian Paterson (PA)

The firm said: "Thompsons argue that the devastation wreaked by Mr Paterson was compounded by the Spire Group's shabby treatment of their former patients when they came forward to complain.

"In response the firm is launching an investigative campaign - Patients Before Profits - to explore how to close loopholes and drive private health providers to 'level up' to ensure private patients are guaranteed the same level and speed of response as those being treated on the NHS."

The surgeon had maintained all the operations were necessary but a jury at Nottingham Crown Court agreed with the prosecution that Paterson carried out "extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason".

His trial heard harrowing evidence from 10 patients treated in the private sector between 1997 and 2011 at the Little Aston and Parkway hospitals in the West Midlands.

One victim telling jurors: "That person has ruined my life."

Patricia Welch and Frances Perks (right), speaking before the former breast surgeon was convicted (PA)

Thomspons said it is "currently pursuing civil cases for around 350 patients who undertook treatment privately at Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston".

A Spire Healthcare spokesman said on Friday: "What Mr Paterson did in our hospitals, in other private hospitals and in the NHS, absolutely should not have happened and today justice has been done.

"We would like to reiterate how truly sorry we are for the distress experienced by any patients affected by this case.

"We can say unequivocally that we have learned the lessons from these events.

"We commissioned a thorough independent investigation and have fully implemented all of the recommendations."

Judge Jeremy Baker granted Paterson bail until his sentencing next month, and added his sentence was "likely to be a custodial one.”