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Surgeons welcome Paterson Inquiry recommendations

04 Feb 2020

Commenting on the recommendations of today’s Paterson Inquiry report, Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons England said:

“The horrific experience of patients at Paterson’s hands is laid bare in today’s report. The healthcare system has failed hundreds of patients and their families, and we must learn from what went wrong. Following their thorough investigation, we welcome the Inquiry’s recommendations today, designed to improve patient safety.

“We have repeatedly called for the same safety standards to be enforced across both the NHS and private healthcare sector. The Inquiry has also stressed this, and agreed with our recommendation that a single repository of information about consultants’ practice should be created. We recommended this in our evidence to the Inquiry, because it allows the NHS and private sector to share information and raise any concerns about patient safety much more quickly.

“The Inquiry also points out there is a gap in the rights of some patients treated in the independent sector, who do have not access to independent investigation or adjudication of complaints. Many patients have no idea this is the case until things go wrong. The government has an opportunity to address this gap right now, by ensuring legislation they are planning to improve the investigation of complaints covers the private sector also.

Together, the measures outlined could help prevent another rogue surgeon in the future from getting away with the appalling and criminal behaviour the Inquiry has exposed.  However, the test will be whether government and regulators act on these recommendations.”


In December 2017, the government launched an independent national Inquiry following the malpractice of jailed surgeon, Ian Paterson. Despite concerns raised about his professional competence and conduct, Paterson was allowed to continue working for over a decade across the NHS and independent sector. His trial established that this rogue surgeon had undertaken numerous unnecessary breast operations over many years, causing appalling harm and distress to dozens of patients. This raised a series of questions about how surgery in the independent sector is regulated and assured, and about the oversight and governance of doctors who work across the NHS and independent sector.

The President of the RCS, Professor Derek Alderson, gave oral evidence to the Inquiry in September 2018. He called for equivalent and consistently high standards of care to be enforced in both the NHS and the independent sector, to improve patient safety.

RCS has been working with government, regulators and providers to improve oversight of clinicians working in the independent sector: RCS is part of an expert advisory group that recently developed a new Medical Practitioners Assurance Framework. This aims to improve clinical governance in the independent sector, and was launched by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network of the NHS Confederation.


Notes to editors

  1. The Paterson Inquiry published its report today, Tuesday 4 February 2020. The report is available here: Report of the independent inquiry into the issues raised by Paterson.
  2. The government is planning to establish the Health Service Safety Investigations Body [“HSSIB”] through a Bill to be re-introduced in this parliament. As currently construed, the new body will not have authority to investigate patient safety incidents in the independent sector, unless they are funded by the NHS. The RCS is pushing for an amendment to the Bill to make sure the HSSIB has the power to investigate all patient safety incidents that occur in the independent sector.
  3. 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.
  4. For more information, please contact the RCS press office: telephone: 020 7869 6047; email:; out-of-hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.

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