Laurence Vick
Posted on 19 Dec 2013

Would Safer Whistleblowing have Halted Paterson's Negligence?

Inquiry into Breast Surgeon Paterson to Publish Findings

The NHS inquiry into the breast cancer surgeon Ian Paterson is due to release its findings, with a criminal investigation by West Midlands Police still in progress.

Spire, the private healthcare provider for which Paterson also worked, has commissioned an independent review of its own, the results of which are expected by the end of 2013.

The so-called 'cleavage-sparing' mastectomy is an unorthodox and unregulated procedure, and one which is not recommended by NHS guidelines. Substantial amounts of breast tissue are not removed, which, while theoretically leaving the patient with a cleavage, increases the risk of cancer recurrence.

Concerns over Paterson's surgery had been extant for some time. His performance was scrutinized in 2004, and in 2007 an internal review resulted in Solihull hospital ordering him to stop performing the cleavage-sparing mastectomy. However, it is reported that he continued to carry out the surgery until around 2010. He is also accused of carrying out surgery on women who did not have cancer, and charging for operations he had not performed.

The legal perspective, and the stifling of whistleblowers

Michelmores are involved in litigation over Paterson's surgery, arguing that he offered what was at best inappropriate, and at worst positively dangerous, surgery to often vulnerable patients.

It is an uneasy fact that so little communication took place, both internally at the NHS, and between the NHS and Paterson's private employers. Why, when he had been barred from carrying out the procedure, had nobody spoken up or spoken out?

This throws light on the way that whistleblowers continue to be suppressed rather than encouraged, both in the NHS and private sector. It is an old problem, with severe ramifications - early exposure of Paterson's activities would have prevented distress, trauma and possibly deaths of patients.

Michelmores are currently representing the family of Luke Jenkins, in a case where a whistleblower leaked documents to the family. You can see the press coverage of this whistleblowing issue here.

Those who had a mastectomy performed by Ian Paterson and are concerned should contact their relevant hospital.

If you would like to discuss a claim relating to negligent cosmetic surgery, you can contact us for free, for discreet, impartial advice.