Intended for healthcare professionals

News News Analysis

Rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson: what has the inquiry told us?

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 11 February 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m560

Linked Opinion

The Paterson case is not a one-off—it indicates systemic weaknesses in the NHS

  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. The BMJ

Last week an independent inquiry into how the rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson was able to inflict harm on patients over more than decade described the UK healthcare system as “dysfunctional at almost every level.” Gareth Iacobucci summarises the findings

What went wrong?

“This report is primarily about poor behaviour and a culture of avoidance and denial,” concluded the retired bishop Graham James, who led the independent inquiry into how the consultant surgeon Ian Paterson was able to work for more than a decade in the NHS and private sector despite concerns about his professional competence and conduct.12

Paterson is currently serving a 20 year prison sentence after being convicted of counts of wounding with intent.

Of Paterson’s former patients who gave evidence, 80 were treated by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, 92 were treated privately at hospitals run by Spire Healthcare, and five were NHS patients treated by Spire.

The inquiry heard that the hospitals failed to look closely at the procedures Paterson was carrying out to make sure he was qualified and permitted to do them. Clinical appraisal systems failed to pick up concerns about him, subsequent monitoring did not pick up any problems, and there was also “a failure of both the independent sector and the NHS to communicate fully with each other,” the inquiry said. It also heard that financial considerations seemed to …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription