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Lawyers welcome Paterson inquiry report

Lawyers have welcomed an inquiry report which exposes a ‘culture of avoidance and denial’ which allowed a breast surgeon to perform medically unjustified operations on hundreds of women.

4 February 2020

The hospitals Ian Paterson worked in displayed a ‘wilful blindness’ to his behaviour, despite concerns and complaints, the inquiry into his work and behaviour has stated.

In May 2017, surgeon Ian Paterson was jailed for 20 years after he was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding. 

He had carried out numerous procedures for no medically justifiable reason on 10 patients between 1997 and 2011. It is believed his surgical malpractice may have harmed more than 750 women.

Parkway Hospital in Solihull and Little Aston Hospital are private hospitals where Paterson practised and after 2014 became part of Spire Healthcare.

Suzanne White, head of the clinical negligence team at Leigh Day solicitors said:

“I am not surprised by this very damning conclusion from this inquiry. 

“We have long argued that patient safety can too often be overlooked by agencies working within this healthcare system and those working on behalf of doctors.

“This report shows that money and egos were placed ahead of proper professional regulation. When the extent of the harm was realised the indemnity system then sought to avoid compensating  those who had been and harmed and traumatised so unjustly. It is deeply troubling that the Medical Defence Union withdrew clinical indemnity cover to Paterson, which ensured that money was not made available to compensate patients.

“It is a terrible day for patient care and safety. Hopefully, the recommendations made by Rt Rev Graham James will make sure this never happens again.”

In the report, chair of the inquiry Rt Rev Graham James said:

“It is the story of a healthcare system which proved itself dysfunctional at almost every level when it came to keeping patients safe, and where those who were the victims of Paterson’s malpractice were let down time and time again. . .

“This report is primarily about poor behaviour and a culture of avoidance and denial. These are not necessarily improved by additional regulation. . .

“We were told that if there was more accessible data about a consultant’s whole practice, then the events described in this report would have been stopped more quickly. . .

“This capacity for wilful blindness is illustrated by the way in which Paterson’s behaviour and aberrant clinical practice was excused or even favoured. Many simply avoided or worked round him. . .

“In conducting this Inquiry, I have reported five health professionals to either the General Medical Council or the Nursing & Midwifery Council and referred one matter for investigation by the West Midlands Police.”

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