Spire Healthcare Report Into Surgeon Ian Paterson Is 'Tip Of The Iceberg' Says Expert Lawyer

Medical Law Experts Say Men And Women Were Put At Risk During General Surgery

11.03.2014

Medical law experts acting on behalf of patients and families treated by Birmingham surgeon Mr Ian Paterson say the scandal goes far wider than first anticipated as they have learnt that Spire Healthcare was aware he was performing general surgery outside of the scope of his NHS practice.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell found that in 2004, the private hospital group first contacted Mr Paterson, who was a Consultant breast surgeon at Spire Parkway in Solihull and Spire Little Aston in Sutton Coldfield, to request that he stop performing procedures which were outside of the scope of his NHS practice. 

Yet Mr Paterson, who also worked within the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust where he performed unregulated or unnecessary breast procedures, continued to work both privately and within the NHS without adequate supervision until 2011, when he was suspended, meaning hundreds of patients were put at risk.

Lawyers say their clients remain frustrated as Spire Healthcare has not disclosed the full independent review, led by consultancy Veritas, and only provided a summary and series of recommendations, which leave a string of unanswered questions.

Irwin Mitchell say they also have concerns as the recall has focused on women who underwent breast procedures, but many men and women may have undergone general surgery by Mr Paterson which was unnecessary or substandard, causing further medical issues and heartache.

Louise Hawkley is a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office representing private and NHS patients treated by Mr Paterson.

Case Studies

Case Study 1
Julie was a patient of Mr Paterson from 2002 to 2011 and underwent multiple procedures to treat breast cancer, hernia and bowel conditions.

She has since found out she may have undergone the controversial cleavage sparing mastectomy (CSM) in 2003 but it cannot be proved as she was given an immediate reconstruction so she continues to need regular check-ups to ensure that the cancer does not return.  .

In 2005, Mr Paterson told the mum-of-three that a scan had shown a number of ‘hot spots’ in her liver and thyroid which suggested the cancer could have returned. The news had a severe psychological impact on her  and she was extremely distressed for many weeks, having being given the impression that she was terminally ill.  

But, eight weeks after the initial scan, the 53-year-old, who wishes to be known only as Julie, had another scan which showed no secondary cancer suggesting that she had been worried unnecessarily. 

A colorectal surgeon has more recently confirmed that three colonoscopies performed by Mr Paterson in a period of ten months were inappropriate and excessive and she should have been referred to a specialist.

There are also concerns about the hernia surgery Mr Paterson performed on Julie between 2004 and 2010 and Irwin Mitchell are investigating whether he operated in the wrong place which is classed in the  NHS as a ‘Never Event’.

Julie said: “I am appalled at the details that continue to emerge about Mr Paterson’s treatment and cannot begin to understand why he behaved in such a horrendous way or how it was possible for it to go on for so long.

“I live in constant fear of my breast cancer returning because Mr Paterson’s work and note taking was so poor that no one can be sure whether I had a CSM or not.

“I just want this ordeal to be over but with so many questions remaining I cannot begin to accept what has happened. I want the full truth from Spire and all other authorities investigating so I at least have accountability and can be certain no one else is at risk.”

Case Study 2
Irwin Mitchell is also investigating the care given to a woman who was given a CSM by Mr Paterson in 2002 and has now been diagnosed with terminal secondary spinal cancer.

Lawyers are concerned as the unnamed woman contacted the Spire in 2011, after learning of concerns about Mr Paterson’s treatment, but she was reassured that everything was fine and that Mr Paterson was a ‘very good surgeon’.

The 78-year-old, mum of four, said: “I was always under the impression that Mr Paterson had performed a full mastectomy but when I saw in the news concerns about his work I went straight back to Spire to check I was okay.

“I was given a mammogram and told everything was fine in 2011 and I left feeling like I was making a nuisance of myself as staff were adamant Mr Paterson was a very good surgeon.

“But in April 2013, I began suffering back pain and by June tests confirmed that I had three cancerous tumours on my spine which had spread from primary cancer in my breast.

“I want to know why I was not included in Spire’s recall process and why I was not told sooner about concerns about Mr Paterson’s work as I now know these were first raised in 2004.

“I have been left living with cancer and I feel as if Mr Paterson has ruined my life. “

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to medical negligence claims