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Inquiry report published into Ian Paterson, Breast Surgeon

The long awaited report into breast surgeon Ian Paterson has been published today following an Inquiry chaired by Bishop Graham James.

Why was the Inquiry set up?

Over a long career, Mr Paterson had undertaken breast surgery on patients which was found later to have been either inadequate or unnecessary. When this finally came to light many former patients instigated claims for compensation and the surgeon himself was convicted and sentenced to a 20 year jail term.

The Inquiry findings

The report was particularly critical of ‘…the culture of avoidance and denial, an alarming loss of corporate memory and an offloading of responsibility at every level.’

‘This capacity for wilful blindness is illustrated by the way in which Paterson’s behaviour and aberrant clinical practice was excused or even favoured.’

The findings on governance, accountability and culture include:

  • Boards of the NHS Trust and Spire were removed from front-line healthcare professionals.
  • Paterson exploited patients’ fear of waiting for treatment and fear of having cancer.
  • Paterson behaved in ways that were not acceptable or were inappropriate in a hospital or clinical setting which was tolerated and not challenged when it should have been.
  • There was a lack of curiosity about Paterson from his colleagues and those in charge of NHS Trust for a sustained period of time.


These include:

  • On information to patients – improvements in accessing performance data for surgeons for the public, better communication with patients, transparency as to the arrangements for treatment and differences between private and NHS provision.
  • A period of reflection should be introduced before consent to care is given.
  • There should be effective compliance with MDT meetings to ensure patients are not at risk of harm.
  • The complaints process will be subject to greater rigour with independent scrutiny in the private sector.
  • There is a call to government to urgently reform the current regulation of indemnity products for healthcare professionals.
  • On corporate accountability the Government is called to address as a matter of urgency the gap in responsibility and liability.

What does this mean for patient safety?

Marguarita Tyne, Partner in Clinical Negligence, commented:

‘The findings of this report are welcome. For too long there has been a risk to patients treated in private healthcare of a lack of accountability from individual doctors and the corporate body for whom they provide services. I have seen too many cases where when something has gone wrong the private hospital steps away from blame. It is clear from the Inquiry findings on governance, in particular, that practice in this sector has not been adequately overseen for too long and the recommendations if properly addressed will go some way to resolving these problems.’

Hopefully in the future there will be improved governance and better rights for patients with organisations taking full responsibility for settling claims arising from treatment given by doctors operating under their remit. This can only happen with the support of government and legislation which places an obligation on organisations to do so.

For more information on the Paterson story read our blog: private medical care and patient safety – fit for purpose?

If you or a member of your family have been affected by the issues in this article and require advice, please contact Marguarita Tyne of our Medical Negligence team on 0800 316 8892.


Your key contact

Marguarita Tyne

Head of Personal Injury & Medical Negligence

Marguarita Tyne is a claimant clinical negligence solicitor who investigates and brings claims on behalf of patients who have been injured during the course of their medical treatment, acting mainly (but not exclusively) for brain injury claimants in high value and often complex litigation.
View profile for Marguarita Tyne >

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