Paterson Inquiry: SPECIAL REPORTS 

Independent practitioners give their reaction

By Robin Stride

Private consultants have ‘wholeheartedly’ welcomed the independent inquiry report into issues raised following the conviction of rogue surgeon Ian Paterson.

And they warned that failure to implement its recommendations in full ‘would be tantamount to a betrayal of the patients, whose sad testimonies lie before us today’.

The Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO) said it sincerely hoped all parties – including the Government, professional bodies, private hospital providers, defence bodies and private medical insurers – would take action. 

Breast surgeon Mr Ian Paterson, who denied all charges, was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent after being accused of carrying out a series of unnecessary operations.

Litany of problems

FIPO told Independent Practitioner Today that, as with all such terrible events, a litany of problems had been uncovered. 

It said apart from the criminal actions of Mr Paterson with his inadequate, token multidisciplinary team meetings at the private hospitals Spire Parkway and Little Aston, there were:

  • Major failings in the clinical and corporate governance at the private hospitals;
  • Wholly inadequate communication between the NHS and the private sector; 
  • Secrecy surrounding referrals to the NHS advisory service for doctors, previously called the National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS) but now renamed Practitioner Performance Advice. 

FIPO called the publication of the report into the Paterson inquiry an important landmark towards improving patient safety. 

It said: ‘The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt. Rev Graham James, has led a meticulous two-year investigation into the mistreatment by Ian Paterson of NHS (Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust) and private patients, at the Spire Parkway and Little Aston Hospitals. 

Relationship between NHS and private

‘Whilst Mr Paterson’s conviction concerned patients in the private sector, this affair has revealed major concerns about the relationship between the NHS and private hospitals.

‘The Bishop and his team have interviewed more than 150 patients, whose individual testimonies form the core of the report. Each and every one of these patients and their families have suffered, and we applaud their bravery in coming forward to share their harrowing stories.

‘The inquiry team has worked with independent advisers and professional clinical advisers, who have provided insight and input into both the numerous failings in this dark episode and the changes and recommendations required to prevent this happening again.

‘Whistleblowers raised concerns about Mr Paterson’s performance to senior NHS managers and clinicians on several occasions over many years; yet these concerns were ignored by senior NHS managers.

Fear of losing career

‘Concerns about lack of whistleblower protection meant that these doctors felt unable to raise concerns outside the NHS for fear of losing their careers.’

FIPO was one of the bodies which provided evidence to the inquiry and outlined a number of clinical governance issues, many of which are highlighted in the report’s recommendations:

Improved information sharing about doctors between the NHS and private hospital providers;

Strengthening clinical governance in private hospitals through more robust medical advisory committees (MACs) and ensuring that private hospital providers prioritise patient safety over profit;

Ensuring that all private patients with cancer and other complex conditions receive proper multidisciplinary care with review in MDT meetings in the same way as NHS patients with proper funding arrangements from private medical insurers;

Suggesting improvements in whistleblower protection;

Changes to medical indemnity provision.

FIPO stated it had long campaigned to ensure the best care for private patients with the consultant of their choice as outlined in its Private Patients’ Charter.