Having acted for a number of people who were patients of the rogue consultant breast surgeon Ian Paterson, we certainly welcome the national inquiry which has been announced by the Government this week.
Certainly, serious questions need to be asked, especially given that Paterson was not suspended from his position until eight years after concerns were first raised.
Paterson, who worked at the Heart of England NHS foundation trust (HEFT), also practised privately at Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston.
He was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding patients with intent and jailed for 20 years in August, having carried out needless surgery on patients who were left traumatised and scarred.
The inquiry is set to look into the reasons for the delays in stopping the unacceptable practices of this surgeon, and crucially question if more could and should have been done to protect the hundreds of patients he saw.
As compensation lawyers who support victims of medical negligence every day, we see the need for such matters to be fully investigated. It is only by doing so that the public’s faith in the medical profession can be restored in some way.
Are inspection regimes strong enough to detect rogue and poor performing health professionals?
Paterson was the man committing the crimes and has rightly been sentenced, but how and why was he able to get away with it for so long without being detected and stopped?
The Government says the scope of the investigation will include the independent sector, and it is set to examine whether the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) inspection regime needs to be strengthened.
It has certainly been a costly situation. The NHS has now paid out almost £10m in compensation to more than 250 patients, and Spire healthcare agreed in September to settle a further 750 cases.
In my view, the investigation certainly needs to and look at whether surgeons are still today being allowed to work in isolation and whether enough is being done to spot health professionals who may be a danger to patients early enough.
The reasons for the delay in stopping unacceptable behaviour must be a major focus – and the findings should be publically revealed so that all who played a part in allowing this scandal to happen are held to account. This should hopefully ensure lessons are learned to prevent something like this happening again.
From our perspective, when things do go wrong we always look for the quickest route to right the wrongs for our clients, aiming to obtain full compensation to help them get back to the position they were before they were injured, as far as money is able to achieve that.
One of the key reasons for the delays in paying compensation to our clients in this case has been the initial indication from Paterson’s own Medical Defence Organisation, the MDU, that the indemnity cover they were providing did not actually cover all of his actions as a surgeon.
This resulted in years of delays as specialised lawyers tried to extend every legal principle in the book in a search for other organisations and bodies to hold to account for his actions.
We will therefore be following the inquiry with interest to see what sort of recommendations are made in relation to arrangements for medical indemnity cover for clinicians in the independent sector to cover all aspects of medical and cosmetic treatment.
It is simply not acceptable for patients to suffer so badly, and then find there is no individual or organisation willing to accept responsibility and provide them the compensation they fully deserve and need.
Protecting patients must be the priority.