Missed chances to stop breast cancer butcher
9 women warned jailed surgeon’s colleagues about him, tribunal told
DISGRACED breast cancer surgeon Ian Paterson was free to butcher patients despite serious concerns being flagged to his NHS bosses by at least nine women a decade before he was jailed, it emerged yesterday.
Issues were raised as early as 2004, and by 2007, senior colleagues at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham, where Paterson worked, were aware of nine reports of patients suffering botched treatments.
Despite this, by 2010 only one case had been reported to the General Medical Council (GMC) for investigation and Paterson, 62, was allowed to continue working. A tribunal in Manchester heard that five further reviews of his conduct were held in secret at the GMC before Paterson was finally suspended from medical practise in 2012 following complaints from 30 patients.
In April 2017, he was jailed for 15 years after being convicted at Nottingham Crown Court of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding. The sentence was later increased to 20 years.
Fresh details of the scandal emerged at a preliminary hearing of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, where two senior doctors who are accused of failing to stop Paterson began a legal battle to save their careers.
Mark Goldman and Ian Cunliffe face being struck off if found guilty of misconduct at a fitness to practise hearing next year. They were
‘Harrowing actions of physical trauma’
referred to the GMC following an investigation which concluded that a culture of ‘denial’ at the NHS Trust enabled Paterson to perform more than 1,000 botched or unnecessary operations.
Mr Goldman quit as the chief executive of the trust with a £2.7 million pension pot in 2010 just three months before news emerged of a recall of Paterson’s patients. Mr Cunliffe, a former medical director at the trust, was accused of attempting to block the recall.
Paterson carried out ‘experimental mastectomies’ on more than 1,200 women in which he failed to remove all the breast tissue.
It meant the disease returned and an inquiry found that by 2017, 675 of Paterson’s patients had died.
Others had surgery they did not need, with some finding out years later they did not have cancer.
Nick Clarke QC, for the GMC, said: ‘We are dealing here with the very harrowing actions of physical trauma that was inflicted by a surgeon.
‘But the fitness to practise hearing will be dealing with not patients’ complaints in this case – but with professional concerns about what was going on and about steps that should have been taken to stop what was happening in order to protect patient safety.’
Mr Goldman and Mr Cunliffe face various misconduct charges, including failures to respond in a ‘timely manner’ to concerns about Paterson, failing to stop him from performing surgery, and failing to notify the GMC of concerns about the surgeon.
The hearing ordered the GMC and the doctors’ lawyers to disclose legal documents ahead of a full disciplinary hearing next year.