21st Jul, 2019

Legal loopholes must be closed - say lawyers

JUSTICE has been done and ‘lessons have been learned’.

Yet hundreds of victims of rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson face a battle for compensation as his medical insurers and the private hospital where he worked battle to avoid crippling payouts.

Tears of joy, tears of relief, tears of sadness and muted ‘celebrations’ followed Friday’s Nottingham Crown Court verdict – the ‘twisted’ and ‘psychopathic’ former surgeon at Solihull Hospital and Spire Healthcare’s Parkway and Little Aston hospitals finally being found guilty of 17 charges of wounding with intent and a further three charges of wounding.

The charges related to just ten of Paterson’s hundreds of victims spanning the best part of two decades – the mere tip of the iceberg of the innocent people his negligent and unnecessary butchering has ruined the lives of – and in possibly hundreds of cases, claimed the lives of.

Some reports claim 675 NHS patients alone have died as a result of the actions of Paterson.

While many – and how many remains unclear – have died as a direct result of Mr Paterson’s negligence, others patients have passed away from ’causes other than breast cancer’.

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) confirmed that as of March 31, 2017 ‘the number of deceased patients who had a mastectomy procedure by Paterson was 675.

It added: “Many of the patients who were operated on by Mr Paterson were elderly and only a proportion of these patients will have died as a result of their breast cancer; other patients will have died from causes other than breast cancer.”

Spire cited forthcoming Civil action as the reason for not commenting on the number of people who had died following treatment by Paterson.

The civil action – set for October – will see around 400 of Paterson’s victims battling for accountability for settling their compensation claims.

The case will decided who is accountable – Paterson (through his insurers the Medical Defence Union), Spire Healthcare or HEFT – and what proportion they must pay.

It is shocking legal loopholes which are responsible for beleaguered victims’ need for action.

Paterson’s insurance company the Medical Defence Union (MDU) announced in 2015 it may not honour his insurance because his practices and operations ‘fell outside of the insurance terms’ (criminal behaviour).

Spire Healthcare continues to argue it is not liable as Paterson ‘was not and has never been an employee of Spire Healthcare but practised as an independent practitioner under the grant of practising privileges’.

These legal loopholes are the subject of a campaign – Patients Before Profits – by Thompsons Solicitors.

Linda Milliband, practice lead for clinical negligence at Thompsons, spoke to Observer editor Chris Willmott.

She said: “Private hospitals should not be able to renege on payment because a surgeon, practising at their hospitals, was not employed by them – there should be a non-delegable duty of care.

“Insurers cannot be allowed to avoid responsibility because of criminal behaviour by their clients – these loopholes must be closed.”

The Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, which operates Solihull Hospital, has already settled 256 claims, with just 25 outstanding.

These settlements have seen just under £9.5 million paid out in damages, just over £4.5million in claimant costs and nearly £3.8million in defence costs paid out – totaling just under £18million.

Spire Healthcare has, meanwhile, settled just a handful of the most serious cases, allegedly involving the terminally ill and most destitute.

The dispute over accountability responsible for the delay.

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