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“wilful blindness” stems from poor leadership

Dear Editor,

Yet again a lone "bad egg" has put the public's faith and trust in all doctors at risk. The inquiry in to Paterson's (the rogue Breast surgeon) case feels that a NHS trust and a private provider missed opportunities to to stop him. The inquiry felt there was even “wilful blindness” to his malpractice which went against the ideals of our profession. But why is it that managers and clinical staff did not stop this sooner. I feel that this partly stems from poor leadership. The ethos of being open with colleagues and questioning "odd behaviour" is not an automatic reflex in the medical world. But maybe in a similar way to questioning safeguarding issues there should be reporting systems for errant behaviour. I feel that if more junior members of the team felt empowered to stand-up to seniors this case may not have happened. The hierarchical nature of medical practice would have certainly helped Paterson hide his crimes. Paterson may have warded off unwanted questions by citing his authority as a consultant. The discussion of the cases in a MDT as per the recommendations would have certainly reduced patient harm. Paterson was given opportunity to do harm, we cannot stop "bad" individuals coming into the medical profession but we can reduced the opportunities for harm.

Competing interests: No competing interests

16 February 2020
Gabriella C Z Gavins
Locum SHO
Poole Hospital
Poole