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NHS breast surgeon guilty of wounding with intent

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May 2, 2017 | By Jim Gladman |

May 2, 2017 | By Jim Gladman |

After a seven week trial, a jury has found breast surgeon Ian Paterson guilty of 17 charges of wounding with intent and 3 charges of unlawful wounding. The court heard the accounts of 10 patients, a sample of those Paterson performed breast surgery on between 1997 and 2011 at Spire Healthcare Hospitals, Spire Parkway in Solihull and Spire Little Aston in Sutton Coldfield. Throughout his career Paterson treated thousands of patients, many of whom will have suffered injury at his hands.

The jury at Nottingham Crown Court were told that Paterson carried out “completely unnecessary” operations and that he carried out “extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason”. His motives were “obscure” but may have included a desire to “earn extra money”. He misled patients about cancer risks, in some cases claiming payments for higher cost procedures.

Paterson performed operations at the Spire Healthcare private hospitals from 1993 to 2012. He was also employed by the NHS at the Heart of England Foundation Trust (HEFT), based in and around Birmingham. His job at HEFT did not form part of the criminal case, but many claims have been made arising from his work there and have been settled by HEFT.

Cleavage sparing mastectomy

Paterson invented, what he called, a “cleavage sparing” mastectomy. A mastectomy involves removing the entire breast, however, Paterson’s unorthodox procedure left breast tissue behind to achieve a better cosmetic effect, putting women at risk of the cancer returning. Paterson performed this procedure on many of his patients and continued to use the technique for several years even after repeatedly being asked by managers to stop.

Kennedy Report 2013

The Board of Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust commissioned Sir Ian Kennedy to undertake a review into what went wrong. The report found that

  • Some women were exposed to a risk of cancer returning because of cleavage sparing mastectomies
  • Solihull Hospital (part of HEFT) had previously found that Paterson had breached guidelines over the procedure

The report uncovered concerns about Paterson that dated back to 2003 but were not acted upon for four years. Recommendations included better recording of information, better regulation and that staff should be encouraged to raise concerns.

How long has this been going on?

Concerns have been raised on a number of occasions, as is clear from the chronology below:

  • 1993: Paterson started working at Spire hospitals in the West Midlands.
  • 1996: Paterson suspended by Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield.
  • 1998: Paterson employed by the Heart of England NHS Trust.
  • 2003: Paterson investigated for conducting cleavage-sparing mastectomies.
  • 2004: An internal report on his conduct made a number of recommendations. These were not acted upon.
  • 2007: HEFT alerted Spire to concerns arising from Paterson’s work. Spire began investigating Paterson’s work at their hospitals.
  • 2008: GPs raise concerns. Another report is critical. Paterson is told to stop cleavage-sparing mastectomies.
  • 2009: HEFT recalls patients who have had cleavage-sparing mastectomies. West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit submit reports.
  • 2010: The General Medical Council notify Spire about a complaint from an NHS patient.
  • 2011: Spire is told that Paterson conducted a cleavage-sparing mastectomy in 2009 after being told to stop them in January 2008. GMC inform Spire about another complaint. A recall of patients begins.
  • 2011: Paterson is suspended by NHS but continues breast surgery.
  • 2012: Patterson is suspended by the General Medical Council. More patients are recalled.
  • 2012: Cases are referred to West Midlands Police following Paterson’s suspension by the GMC.
  • 2013: An independent report by Sir Ian Kennedy noted that concerns about Paterson dated back to 2003.

Compensation Claims

The Guardian has reported that over 250 claims involving Paterson have been settled with more claims to follow. Claims are likely to include Spire Hospitals and the Heart of England Foundation Trust as well as Paterson.

If you think you’ve experienced a injury by medical error or mistake, contact the Medical Negligence team at Switalskis Solicitors. Call us on 0800 138 0458 for advice and assistance.

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Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice, and the law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice on their own particular circumstances.

Jim Gladman

Jim Gladman is a solicitor within our Clinical Negligence team in Huddersfield and specialises in Medical Inquests. He joined Switalskis in January 2010 and has over twenty years' experience in Clinical and Medical Negligence claims. Jim's profile