The long-awaited report of the independent national Inquiry into the malpractice of jailed surgeon Ian Paterson, chaired by the Right Reverend Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, is expected to be published on 4 February 2020.
Ian Paterson performed inadequate and unnecessary operations on many women in the NHS and Private sector. Kashmir Uppal, specialist medical negligence solicitor at Shoosmiths, maintains that legislative changes are required to ensure nothing like this can happen again. She comments:
"Despite the Inquiry’s non-statutory status, I am reassured that the Bishop, with the assistance of his investigating panel to whom I gave evidence, has conducted a thorough investigation including any further action needed to strengthen the CQC’s inspection regime. There is certainly more that can be done to correct poor practice in both the NHS and private sectors."
"While there is no doubt that Ian Paterson was a rogue individual, the entire healthcare sector - NHS and private - must do more to prevent someone like him from ever causing harm again. There must be stronger and effective clinical governance and protection for patients, regardless of whether they have their operation in an NHS hospital or in the independent sector."
Kashmir insists that more information should be shared with the NHS about the operations surgeons are undertaking in the private sector and how they are performing. Unexpected deaths, so-called ‘never events’ and serious injuries also have to be reported by private hospitals to the Care Quality Commission, but that data is not routinely published.
The legal loophole that disadvantages private patients in particular needs legislation to close it. Around 750 patients treated by Paterson in his private practice had to wait long and fight hard to receive compensation from Spire Healthcare, which afforded Paterson practising privileges at Spire Parkway hospital in the West Midlands.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) by contrast had already paid out compensation totalling nearly £18 million in damages and legal costs to patients who had been treated by Paterson while he was working for the NHS.
"I hope that the report will recognise how crucial it is to address the discrepancy in access to justice for patients injured, often to the same degree and by the same surgeon, in private practice rather than the NHS. Private hospitals cannot be allowed to simply wash their hands of any responsibility by maintaining that they simply afforded practising facilities. There also needs to be more rigorous and effective clinical governance with patient protection as its focus, rather than, as in Mr Paterson’s case, the rights of the Doctor."