Patient safety

08.12.17

Government launches inquiry into Ian Paterson case

A national inquiry has been launched into the malpractice of Ian Paterson.

Earlier this year the breast surgeon was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of 17 counts of wounding patients with intent, having performed unnecessary, life-changing operations.

The government has said that the independent non-statutory inquiry, chaired by the Right Reverend Graham James, bishop of Norwich, will examine the circumstances and practices surrounding Paterson’s malpractice.

Paterson was employed by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, with practicing privileges in two hospitals in the independent sector.

As such, the scope of the investigation has been widened to include the independent sector, including any further action needed to strengthen the CQC’s inspection regime.

Health minister, Philip Dunne, said that the malpractice had “sent shockwaves across the health system”, and that he is “determined” to ensure that lessons are learnt so that this cannot happen again, neither in the NHS nor the independent sector.

“I believe an independent, non-statutory inquiry, overseen by Bishop Graham James, is the right way forward to ensure that all aspects of this case are brought to light and lessons learned so we can better protect patients in the future,” he said.

The inquiry will draw on issues raised about Paterson’s conduct in previous reviews, particularly Sir Ian Kennedy’s review on behalf of HEFT and Verita’s investigation into the governance arrangements at the two independent hospitals.

The Right Reverent Graham James, described the harm that Paterson inflicted on patients as “deeply concerning.”

He said: “It is vital that the inquiry be informed by the concerns of former patients of Ian Paterson and their representatives.

“The interests of all patients, whether they seek treatment in the NHS or the private sector, should be at the heart of this inquiry and I will do my very best in the interest of those affected and the public.”

The government has said that the inquiry will be informed by Paterson’s victims and their families, and is likely to consider the appraisal and validation of staff in the independent sector and the sharing of information between the independent sector and the NHS.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), Professor Derek Alderson, said the Paterson “abused the trust placed in him by patients”, working independently to perform “unproven and unacceptable operations on many women”.

He continued: “It is right that the government now moves forward with a review of the many issues raised by his criminal behaviour.

“No review can undo the terrible consequences of his actions but it is important that we leave no stone unturned to help prevent a similar situation from happening again.

“It is extremely important that the government commits to finding the time to implement sensible recommendations, arising from this review, to improve patient safety.”

The RCS is also taking action to improve the collection and publication of data in the private sector to verify patient safety and clinical outcomes.

The inquiry will be formally established from January 2018 and is expected to report in summer 2019.

Further details will be announced at a future date.

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