Hundreds of private patients of Ian Paterson, the rogue breast surgeon facing jail for mutilating women, may be denied compensation due to a legal loophole.
Victims treated privately by Paterson have expressed their outrage that they are having to fight in the courts for payouts.
The Sunday Telegraph has been told that almost all NHS cases involving Paterson have been settled but private cases remain ongoing.
A civil claim, expected to go to trial later in the year, is being brought by about 400 women who suffered at the hands of the surgeon.
Paterson, 59, an NHS consultant, also carried out needless and botched operations on hundreds of women at two private hospitals in the West Midlands run by Spire Healthcare between 1993 and 2012.
But Spire has argued that because it did not employ Paterson, the healthcare company should not be held responsible for his botched surgery.
Paterson’s insurers Medical Defence Union has written to victims’ lawyers saying they are not liable either.
A court will now decide who is liable for their suffering.
On Friday, Paterson was found guilty after a seven week criminal trial at Nottingham Crown Court of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three further wounding charges.
The Heart of England NHS Trust had first been warned about Paterson’s conduct as long ago as 2003. He had also been suspended by a previous NHS hospital in the mid 1990s.
Sarah Jane Downing, who underwent needless breast surgery at Spire Parkway hospital in Solihull in 1998, has spoken of her disgust at the private hospital’s refusal to pay victims’ compensation.
She told her local newspaper: “We are all devastated by what Mr Paterson did to us. Spire continue to add to our suffering by denying any responsibility for what happened. I’m horrified by the way Spire has treated us.”
A spokesman for Irwin Mitchell, one of the law firms suing Spire and Paterson, said: “People think they have better cover going private but the NHS provides much better cover if things go wrong.”
The surgeon’s insurers have written to lawyers that patients “should have no expectation of any continuing MDU involvement in this matter”.
The insurers added: “MDU cover is discretionary and may legitimately be withdrawn if a surgeon’s practice falls outside of the insurance terms.”
Spire Healthcare has paid compensation to some patients but refused so far to pay out in the vast majority of cases.
The company declined to comment at time of going to press last night.
An MDU spokesman said: “We never comment on individual cases.”