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RCS statement ahead of rogue surgeon Ian Paterson's sentencing

30 May 2017

The following statement can be used by media for reporting ahead of the sentencing of Ian Paterson. It may be updated following the sentencing.

On 17 May, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) issued an open letter which sought to reassure the public that rogue doctors should be more easily caught by modern rules governing medical practice – which includes annual appraisals as part of a doctor’s revalidation and rules around team decision-making and patient consent. It also called for a review by the next Government of how safety standards and transparency can improve, particularly in the private sector.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons Clare Marx said:

“No sentence can ever fully reflect the pain and suffering experienced by the victims of Ian Paterson. No hyperbole can be strong enough to condemn the wretched actions he undertook.

“Ian Paterson was a rogue surgeon, and a liar who ultimately cheated his patients out of the care they needed. Simply put he is a disgrace to the medical profession. He was potentially more motivated by financial gain than any desire to help the lives of others.

“The public should not be under any impression that he is somehow symptomatic of a wider problem in our health service, or that there are lots of other Ian Patersons practising medicine. Day in, day out, surgeons in every hospital pull out the stops to treat patients and save lives. That is the true face of medicine in the UK.

“Nevertheless there is no room for complacency and there are actions that can still be taken to minimise future harm to patients. We must continue to promote a culture, both in the NHS and the private sector, where people feel able to raise concerns. It is clear from both the Kennedy and Verita reports that too often Paterson’s colleagues were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, despite his repeated lies. Patients’ concerns were sometimes brushed aside. There are parallels with the appalling events at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

“Questions also need to be raised about what more the private sector can do. It should be expected to report similar safety and quality data to the NHS to enable effective monitoring and transparency. We don’t, for example, know enough about the outcomes of cancer patients being treated in the private sector. Cosmetic surgery, which happens almost entirely in the private sector, needs to be better regulated.

“The further review of Ian Paterson, promised by the main political parties, should seek to understand whether the recommendations and findings of the Kennedy and Verita reviews have now been fully implemented and reflected upon by the NHS and private sectors. We look forward to working with the next Government”.

The Royal College of Surgeons has an important part to play to ensure patient safety, particularly in setting standards for surgical care and the training our surgeons go through. It does not have regulatory powers but has nevertheless committed to a number of actions, some of which have already been implemented:

  • Our President recently discussed the Ian Paterson case and its implications with the chair of the patient support group, Sarah Jane Downing. We have agreed to explore areas where we can work together, for instance in information for patients undergoing surgical procedures.
  • We have asked our Patient and Lay Group to challenge us on how we can better support high standards in surgery and protect patients from harm.
  • We are writing to every single one of our members to remind them of expected practice on team decision-making, raising concerns, and patient consent.
  • Our Invited Review service is prepared to work with the affected hospitals to review any case notes of Ian Paterson’s potential other victims.
  • We are meeting the Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations, in particular to look at how we can support the private sector to improve its transparency and data collection.
  • We will seek an early meeting with the new Health Secretary following the general election to set out how we can work with the next government to raise patient safety standards further.

Notes to editors

The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

For more information, please contact the Press Office:

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