News

Private patients treated by rogue breast surgeon will be compensated under £37m fund

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j4292 (Published 14 September 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j4292
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

A new £37m (€41m; $49m) fund has been agreed to compensate around 750 private patients of the rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson.

The fund will settle claims against Spire Healthcare, which ran the private Little Aston and Parkway hospitals, and against two codefendants: Paterson himself, and the Heart of England NHS Trust, where he worked as an NHS consultant surgeon. The case had been due to go to the High Court for hearing next month, and the wording of a formal court order will still have to be approved by the court.1

The NHS trust settled on the basis that it referred some patients to Paterson for operations in the private hospitals. Spire will contribute £27.2m to the fund, with the balance of around £10m coming from the trust and Paterson’s insurers.

Last April at Nottingham Crown Court, Paterson was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and three counts of unlawful wounding. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but the sentence was increased to 20 years by the Court of Appeal.2

The crown court heard that he lied to patients and exaggerated or invented the risk of cancer to persuade them to undergo mutilating surgery. The jury was told that he carried out “extensive, life changing operations for no medically justifiable reason,” with “obscure motives” which may have been partly financial.

Paterson, 59, was appointed a consultant at the Heart of England Trust in 1998. A review in 2013 by Ian Kennedy, former chairman of the Healthcare Commission, found that colleagues were “at their wits’ ends” raising concerns from 2004 about his unauthorised “cleaving sparing” mastectomies, which increased the risk of cancer recurring. But weak management at the trust allowed him to go on operating until 2011, Kennedy found.3

NHS Resolution has already paid out around £18m in damages and legal costs to more than 250 of Paterson’s NHS patients.

Spire said in a statement that a portion of the fund would be set aside for patients who had not yet claimed but who did so before 30 October 2018. Simon Gordon, Spire’s interim chief executive, said that Paterson had “behaved with clear criminal intent and abused the trust of those who looked to him for his care and relied upon his expertise.”

He added, “However, whilst nothing diminishes Mr Paterson’s responsibility for his actions, these events took place in our hospitals, and this should not have happened. We accept that better clinical governance in the private hospitals where Mr Paterson practised, as well as in his NHS trust, might have led to action being taken sooner, and it is right that we have made a material contribution to the settlement announced today.”

Emma Doughty, a clinical negligence specialist at the law firm Slater and Gordon, said, “Even when Paterson was charged and then convicted earlier this year, Spire refused to countenance that they were responsible for his actions, despite his crime taking place in their hospitals. We are pleased that Spire has finally agreed to settle these cases and, importantly, we hope this settlement will send a message to other private healthcare providers that patient safety must be their priority.”

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