The terms of reference of the independent inquiry into the practice of disgraced Midlands breast surgeon Ian Paterson have been published.
Kashmir Uppal, a specialist solicitor and partner in Shoosmiths medical negligence team who was instrumental in highlighting the issues relating to Paterson’s practice, commented on the terms of reference as confirmed by the inquiry team yesterday:
‘The inquiry’s stated central objective is to afford former patients of Ian Paterson and their families an opportunity to be heard. We are pleased that there is an emphasis on the importance of listening to patients and their families. We know from our work with many of the patients affected that they feel, despite previous reviews, their experiences have not been fully recognised.’
Kashmir is pleased that the terms of reference appear to have been widened extensively as a result of consultation with patients and interested parties. Since its launch in December, the inquiry team met with more than 150 patients and their families. Shoosmiths has also been involved in the consultation process and the firm’s observations along with the victim’s contributions have clearly been taken into account in finalising the terms of reference.
The Inquiry will consider issues raised in previous relevant reports, such as that performed by Sir Ian Kennedy and the private Verita review, but does not intend to revisit the evidence that led to Paterson’s conviction. Although the inquiry will restrict itself to matters concerning the treatment of patients in the private sector and the NHS in England it will also consider other past and current practices, drawing conclusions in relation to the safety and quality of care provided nationally to all patients. Its report is expected to be published in summer 2019.
‘We hope the review will, as it says it will, focus on the issues raised by the Paterson case with respect to reporting of failures within hospitals nationally. This is not just a regional failing. Had more staff or medical colleagues felt confident enough to report Ian Paterson’s practices earlier, the number of patients affected may have reduced significantly. A better system for monitoring and acting upon reports of concern is needed.’
Kashmir also welcomes the inquiry’s stated determination to ensure that lessons are learned from this case - particularly with respect to review of independent sector indemnity cover - but she adds:
‘Our experience of the Paterson cases has also showed that the patient recall process was flawed in both the private and NHS sectors. We hope the inquiry will lead to recommendations for an improved process to ensure patients are informed of incidents that affect them much earlier.’
The ‘lessons must be learned’ mantra is heard after every tragic healthcare failure. However Kashmir and her team trust that this time, the inquiry will be able to learn from the experiences of Paterson’s patients, such as Lesley Cuthbert. Their hope is that the inquiry’s conclusions and recommendations will enhance future private and NHS healthcare patient protection so that an Ian Paterson can never happen again.
For more information about the terms of reference and the inquiry see www.patersoninquiry.org.uk.