Criminal Consultant Surgeon Ian Paterson Cost the NHS £18 million and Hundreds of Victims

Stephanie Prior

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Former Consultant surgeon Ian Patterson has been found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent. In May this year he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for performing , ‘extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason’ During his trial, the Nottingham Crown Court heard how Patterson encouraged 10 of his healthy private patients to undergo unnecessary surgery for the treatment of non-existent breast cancer. His actions have been described by one of his victims as ‘grotesque’ and ‘violent’. Presiding Judge Jeremy Baker told Patterson, ‘You deliberately played upon their worst fears, either by inventing or deliberately exaggerating the risk that they would develop cancer, and thereby gained their trust and confidence to consent to the surgical procedures which you carried out upon them.’

1100 NHS Patients Affected

Ironically, Patterson is also accused of insufficiently treating real cancer patients by performing ‘cleavage sparing’ breast surgery that left breast tissue in place. This particular procedure is associated with twice the relapse rate of a full mastectomy. In 2007 the Heart of England NHS trust investigated Patterson’s practice and told him to discontinue: he refused. Ultimately, because of the arrogance and narcissism of a single surgeon, over 1100 NHS patients were recalled for further tests and a staggering 68 of the women who had been operated on by Patterson went on to develop a recurrence of their cancer.

Suspended from the General Medical Register

Probably the most frustrating aspect of this case is that people who worked with Patterson had been raising concerns about his practice for years. Colleagues were ‘at their wits’ ends trying to get the authorities to take action. When Patterson was finally suspended from the General Medical Register in October 2012 he had already been the subject of 4 previous investigations. Patterson has expressed no remorse or guilt and his motivations are unclear. However, it is suspected that his primary goal was financial. The Senior Investigating Officer, Chief Superintendent Mark Payne called him a ‘controlling bully who played God with people’s lives so he could live a luxurious lifestyle’.

Compensation Claims

To date, nearly £18million in compensation has been paid to 256 of Patterson’s NHS patients, although the total number could be more than 1000 because patients are claiming damages from the 1990s onwards. Spire Healthcare which now owns the private hospitals in which Patterson worked, is also facing hundreds of claims for compensation. However, in contrast to Patterson’s NHS victims, compensation for these private victims is not guaranteed. For, the Medical Defence Union has refused to cover him for claims lodged after his insurance lapsed and surprisingly, even if a surgeon’s conduct is found to be criminal, there is no certainty that his insurance will be paid.

Review of Standards

As a result of this case, The Royal College of Surgeons has called for a review of standards and tighter regulation of cosmetic surgery within the private sector. However, the weak management, closed culture and a failure to put the patient first are also contributing factors that must be addressed. Both Spire Healthcare and the Heart of England Trust have taken steps to ensure that a case like Patterson’s never happens again: that remains to be seen.

At Osbornes Law we care about how you are treated both by medical professionals at hospital and also under the care of your local GP or other treating doctor(s). If you think that the medical care you have received fell below the standards expected of a reasonably competent medical professional, then please do not hesitate to contact partner and specialist medical negligence lawyer Stephanie Prior on 020 7681 8671, or Nicola Hall, Solicitor, on 020 7681 8701.

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