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Updated statement on the sentencing of rogue breast surgeon Ian Paterson

31 May 2017

The following statement updates our statement reported earlier today.

Ian Paterson has today been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

President of the Royal College of Surgeons Clare Marx said:

“No sentence, even as long as 15 years in prison, 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. It is unbelievable that he continues to show no remorse.

“We commend the bravery of the victims who faced their abuser in court today. We fully agree with them that the next Government needs to launch an inquiry into Ian Paterson’s sordid actions. We must understand why his appalling practice was not challenged sooner by his medical and managerial colleagues. In particular we need to fully examine whether the recommendations and findings of both the Ian Kennedy and the Verita reports have been fully acted upon. We welcome the Secretary of State’s intention to commission a further inquiry.

“The public should not be under any impression that Ian Paterson 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 much better regulated.”

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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