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Irwin Mitchell Say Public Inquiry Is Only Way To Get Answers About Why Unregulated Surgery Went Unnoticed For So Long

Cancer Victim Given Procedure Three Years After Surgeon Was Told To Stop


Medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell representing victims who allege they are victims of negligent breast surgery at the hands of Ian Paterson say an independent review will not go far enough and a Public Inquiry is the only way to truly get to the bottom of how and why such ‘appalling’ errors were made over such a long time period.

The firm’s call, backed by a Birmingham mum-of-seven who underwent an unregulated Cleavage Sparing Mastectomy (CSM) as recently as 2010, follows an announcement last week by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust that it has launched an independent investigation into Mr Paterson’s work chaired by renowned health lawyer Sir Ian Kennedy.

Barbara Tennyson was given a CSM, leaving breast tissue behind which the surgeon claimed made a reconstruction easier, three years after bosses at Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust told Mr Paterson to stop performing them following an investigation into his work in 2007.

But the Solihull Hospital Kennedy Breast Care Review will only look at how health chiefs reacted to concerns from Solihull Hospital patients and staff about CSMs and whether actions taken by the Trust were appropriate and carried out in a timely manner - issues, which Barbara says, are not victims’ primary concern.

The Trust announced last year that up to 1,000 women under the care of Mr Paterson may have had unregulated CSMs or unnecessary surgery dating back to 1996, while he worked at Solihull Hospital, Good Hope Hospital, and two private facilities run by Spire Healthcare.

Irwin Mitchell says it has been contacted by many women who have only been made aware of Mr Paterson’s non-standard surgery by reading press reports, rather than being contacted by the hospital trust or private hospital, as well as others who were only recalled recently when it was discovered he had continued to carry out unregulated surgery despite being told to stop.

Mr Paterson has been suspended from practice and the General Medical Council (GMC) are currently investigating, along with the police and now Sir Ian Kennedy, but medical experts at the firm say a Public Inquiry, similar to the one currently being finalised into the Mid Staffordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, is the only option to gather a full, independent report. They believe it will provide answers to worried patients and ensure the same mistakes cannot be repeated and have written to local MPs to raise their concerns.

Victoria Blankstone, a specialist medical lawyer at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, said: “These were vulnerable patients diagnosed with breast cancer who placed their trust in someone they believed was an expert and underwent major surgery. For them to subsequently learn that their treatment was incorrect and that they would need further surgery to remove the excess breast tissue, leaving them with concerns about their prognosis, is appalling.

“Whilst we welcome the Solihull Hospital Kennedy Breast Care Review, we do not believe it is sufficiently far reaching in the remit of its enquiries as it will not address the heart of the issue, which is why was Mr Paterson allowed to carry out the surgery in the first place and how was he allowed to continue doing this in both NHS and private hospitals for so long, despite being told to stop following investigations by the Trust in 2004 and 2007.

“We want all relevant authorities including the Care Quality Commission, Police, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and GMC to be involved in a Public Inquiry to provide answers for the victims and ensure that whatever systems failed, allowing him to carry out these operations, are identified and improved immediately.”

Shard End grandmother Barbara Tennyson, 65, was given a CSM by Mr Paterson at Solihull Hospital in 2010 after being diagnosed with breast cancer earlier that year. She has had to have two further operations to remove the excess, potentially cancerous breast tissue that he left behind and it was not until she read a newspaper report about him being investigated by the GMC in June 2011 that she realised she may be in danger.

She said: “Before I had the mastectomy Mr Paterson asked if I would want a breast reconstruction and I said no, so why he decided to perform a CSM, which was apparently to make a reconstruction easier, makes absolutely no sense.

“I was so shocked when I read the article in the paper about Mr Paterson and so concerned that I made an appointment at the hospital straight away. When staff told me what he had done and how there was a risk I might still have cancerous cells in me, I just felt absolutely sick and violated.

“I had gone through months of treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy after the first operation and to find out it could all have been for nothing was devastating.”

She added: “Everyone involved in Mr Paterson’s work needs to be held accountable. I am furious at what has happened and I know other women treated by him will be feeling the same.

“We need answers now about why he was performing this operation for so long and how he was able to get away with it. He has ruined lives and everything possible must be done to get to the bottom of it. It is clear a Public Inquiry is the only way to do this. How complaints were handled by the hospital is not my first concern so the review is not going to answer the key issues.

“I cannot begin to move forward with my life until I know mistakes on this huge scale can never happen again and a Public Inquiry is the only way to highlight these and expose everyone responsible.”

Victoria Blankstone added: “We have very grave concerns about the information that is continuing to emerge as we see new evidence coming in daily. This is an evolving situation that should not be focused on issues in the past such as how patient complaints were handled, but the ongoing situation as to why a surgeon performed an unregulated procedure in the first place and how he was allowed to get away with it for so long.

“Mr Paterson was not working in isolation, he was working in a multi-disciplinary environment with numerous staff working alongside him both in the NHS and the private hospitals and this is why a wide ranging investigation is required to get to the bottom of what appears to be a dysfunctional unit that allowed systemic failures to continue to happen for so long.”