AN INDEPENDENT inquiry hopes to help protect patients from suffering at the hands of another Ian Paterson.
Health Minister Philip Dunne has announced the establishment of the independent non-statutory inquiry to report on the harm inflicted by the rogue breast surgeon, now serving 20 years behind bars after being convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding against ten patients.
The 59-year-old, whose victims run into the hundreds, worked at hospitals run by the Heart of England NHS Trust and also practiced privately at Bupa hospitals in Solihull and Sutton Coldfield, latterly run by Spire Healthcare.
The inquiry, which will be chaired by the Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, follows a pledge by the health secretary in which he committed to hold a ‘comprehensive and focused inquiry’.
Initial reports suggest the inquiry will consider the responsibility for the quality of care, appraisal and validation of staff in the private health sector, the safety of multi-disciplinary working, information sharing, reporting of activity and raising concerns between the private sector and the NHS.
The role of insurers providing medical indemnity cover for ‘self-employed’ clinicians such as Paterson in the private sector will also be examined.
Mr Dunne said: “Ian Paterson’s malpractice sent shockwaves across the health system due to the seriousness and extent of his crimes, and I am determined to make sure lessons are learnt from this so that it never happens again in the independent sector or the NHS.
“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.”
Bishop Graham said Paterson’s actions had raised serious questions which needed to be answered.
He added: “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.”
Kashmir Uppal, a specialist medical negligence solicitor instrumental in pursuing claims on behalf of those injured by Paterson since 2010, voiced reservations but still welcomed the inquiry.
She said: “My preference was that the managerial failings, which allowed Paterson to do what he did for so long, were addressed ideally through a full public inquiry.
“However, despite the inquiry’s non-statutory status, I am reassured that the Bishop, with the assistance of his investigating panel of a QC and surgeon, will conduct a thorough investigation including any further action needed to strengthen the CQC’s inspection regime.”
Lesley Cuthbert was among Paterson’s victims.
She said: “Having faced a long wait and uncertainty about whether I (and hundreds of others) would be compensated for the pain and distress Paterson caused, even after he was convicted, I am pleased that the inquiry will look into the cases of people he harmed in private practice.
“My hope is that the Bishop may also address the discrepancy in access to justice for patients injured in private practice rather than the NHS.’
The inquiry will start in January, and its independence should mean its recommendations will be delivered quickly, with a report expected by summer 2019.
In September it was announced some 750 of Paterson’s victims would receive compensation from a £37million fund.