The Government’s response to the Paterson inquiry has been widely welcomed by surgeons and by organisations who have been pressing for greater transparency in healthcare.
Prof Neil Mortensen
Prof Neil Mortensen, president of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said: ‘There was widespread revulsion in the surgical community at the criminal actions of the jailed surgeon, Ian Paterson.
‘He caused appalling harm and distress to hundreds of patients and their families. Despite concerns raised about his professional competence and conduct, Paterson was allowed to continue working for over a decade across the NHS and independent sector.
‘We have repeatedly called for the same safety standards to be enforced across both the NHS and private healthcare sector. In our evidence to the inquiry, we recommended that a single repository of information about consultants’ practice should be created.
‘We advised this because it will allow the NHS and private sector to share information and raise any concerns about patient safety much more quickly. We are therefore pleased that the Government has accepted this recommendation in principle.
Multidisciplinary team meetings
Prof Mortensen said his college also fully supported the Government’s decision to give the Care Quality Commission (CQC) the power to monitor whether independent hospitals were complying with guidance on multidisciplinary team meetings.
He said this would help better team-working and information-sharing. Ultimately, it would help to protect patients from potential rogue surgeons or other health professionals.
‘The independent inquiry exposed how patients were let down at every level by the system. The inquiry’s recommendations are designed to improve patient safety and prevent such criminal actions from happening again.
‘As a member of the Paterson Programme Board, I have worked with the Department of Health and Social Care on how to implement these recommendations. Everyone working in healthcare owes it to the patients who were so badly let down, to make these changes,’ Prof Mortensen added.
At the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), chief executive David Hare said: ‘Anyone who read the Bishop’s report couldn’t fail to be moved by the suffering of the victims involved and it’s absolutely right that the Government’s response continues to put the voices of his victims and families at its heart.
‘Today’s response from the Government builds on the inquiry’s report and sets out a clear commitment to implementing the bishop’s recommendations and the importance of all parts of the healthcare system working together.
‘As the Government has recognised, the independent sector has already taken a number of important steps to further improve quality and safety in the sector.
‘This includes strengthening the oversight of clinicians working in the sector, notably through the implementation of our Medical Practitioners Assurance Framework which is used by CQC as evidence of good governance and to inform judgement about how well-led services provided by independent providers are.
‘This work is also reflected in the Care Quality Commission’s independent assessment of the sector which currently shows that 84% of all independent sector hospitals are currently rated as either good or outstanding, which compares favourably to the wider healthcare system in England.’
He said the independent healthcare sector was fully committed to continuing to work with the Department of Health and Social Care and all parts of the healthcare system to build on progress made in recent years and to ensure commitments set out in the Government’s response are fully delivered.
At the Private Healthcare Information Network, chief executive Matt James said: ‘Ian Paterson harmed hundreds of patients over many years. In recent months I have met some of the women he treated, and I have been hugely impressed by their courage and tenacity in gradually getting a reluctant system to listen. Now it is time for action. We welcome the commitments that the government has made today.
‘PHIN will continue to play its part in producing better information for patients. We are glad to see the commitment to produce information helping patients to better understand the key differences between private care and NHS care. We welcome the commitment to using good data to improve safety and performance across the NHS.’
He said PHIN would continue to advocate for the publication of comprehensive information on consultants’ activity and outcomes.
This was already a legal requirement in private healthcare, thanks to the Competition and Markets Authority, but the task of making it a reality would benefit hugely from the full backing of ministers and the Department of Health and Social Care.
Mr James called it ‘encouraging’ to see PHIN’s work recognised. ‘Better information will inevitably lead to better patient safety. Until we have comprehensive information produced to a publishable standard, we have not done all that we can to keep patients safe.’