1,500 patients recalled over jailed breast surgeon Ian Paterson's operations

Paterson is serving a 20 year prison sentence for carrying out unnecessary operations, including breast removal. Stacey Foster reports

1,500 people who received treatment from a jailed breast surgeon are being recalled by a private hospital after their details were recovered from an old computer database.

Spire Healthcare is carrying out a review of all of the patients of Ian Paterson, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for carrying out unnecessary operations on some of his patients.

The consultant breast surgeon was employed by the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (HEFT) but had practising privileges in the independent sector at both Spire Parkway and Spire Little Aston in Birmingham until 2013 when he was suspended in 2011.

Following the Independent Inquiry into Ian Paterson which was published in February 2020, Spire Healthcare agreed to recall all living patients to review their treatment.

Victim Frances Perks reacts as she leaves Nottingham Crown Court in 2017 where surgeon Ian Paterson was jailed for 15 years Credit: PA Images

5,500 patients in the private sector have had their operations checked, but the details of another 1,500 patients have just been discovered on an old IT system used between 1993 and the early 2000s - when Ian Paterson was performing surgery at Spire’s hospitals in the West Midlands.

The new cohort of patients is now being contacted by Spire Healthcare and will be offered a review of the treatment they received by Paterson.

Dr Cathy Cale, Spire Healthcare’s Group Medical Director, said: “Over the past couple of years, we’ve been absolutely committed to identifying, tracking down and contacting all living patients of Ian Paterson regardless of when they were treated.

"This has entailed going back over legacy computer systems which were in place from the beginning of Ian Paterson’s practice in 1993 until the early 2000s, and includes data which were thought to be previously inaccessible.

“Understandably, it’s not been easy to navigate our way around some of these data which are more than 20 years old.

"But, now that we have been able to extract new patient information from these historic IT systems, we will write to those patients in the next few weeks to offer them any support they need.

“We are very sorry for the significant distress and harm suffered by patients who were treated by Ian Paterson.

"We accepted the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry into Paterson in 2020 and are fully committed to implementing them.

“Although we cannot put right the wrongs of the past, we are determined to do everything we can to support the victims of Ian Paterson including those he treated before Spire was in existence.

"That is why we are taking this action today,” she added.

The independent inquiry into how the rogue breast surgeon was able to go on performing unnecessary operations for years uncovered a healthcare system "dysfunctional at almost every level".

The inquiry found "patients were let down over many years" by the NHS and private hospitals and opportunities to stop Paterson were "missed, time after time."

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In some cases, Paterson exaggerated or invented the risks of cancer and claimed payments for more expensive procedures.

In the NHS, he had carried out an unapproved “cleavage-sparing” mastectomy on some patients which left behind breast tissue, increasing the risk of cancer returning.

The inquiry, which reported to Government before the pandemic in February 2020, recommended the NHS Trust which employed Paterson and private health firm Spire Healthcare recall all of Paterson's patients.

In September 2017, more than 750 patients treated by Paterson received compensation payouts from a £37million fund.

In July 2021, it was announced that Spire Healthcare would be setting up a new fund to award damages to other patients who had come forward since the Independent Inquiry.

The Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull is reviewing the deaths of 20 patients to see whether there is any evidence that former patients of Mr Paterson died as a result of his actions.

Commenting on the revelation that a further 1,500 of Paterson's are being recalled by Spire Parkway, Linda Millband, head of clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors – which has represented hundreds of his clients in legal claims - said: “We are years on from Paterson being exposed as a threat to people’s health and we are years on from him being convicted - yet here we have another patient recall by Spire Healthcare.

“The fact that 1,500 patients could have been missed off both previous recalls shows how extensively Spire enabled Paterson to practice.

“For patients who have suffered from his negligence and for those who have lost loved ones this recall will bring back bitter memories. For those being alerted for the first time there will be shock and worry.

“You would have thought that after two recalls Spire would not have left any stone unturned yet they missed at least 1,500 people due to a computer glitch. It begs the question - ‘what next’?

“This spluttering approach from Spire is neither professional nor fair. It is clear people have been missed and we will be urging anyone who believes they may have been a victim of Ian Paterson, at any time, to come forward whether contacted or not so we can ensure they get the maximum compensation – and we hope see an end to this shocking scandal.”

Any patient who is concerned about treatment they received with Ian Paterson can find out more by visiting Spire Healthcare’s website.

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