Health campaigners fear patients wrongly treated by a disgraced Scots breast surgeon, who was jailed for performing needless operations, may have been missed despite several reviews.
Cancer survivors operated on by Glasgow-born Ian Paterson have called on his old employers to ensure all former patients have been contacted.
The campaigners fear the NHS and private breast treatment reviews carried out to date risk missing out Paterson’s general surgery patients, who had operations such as gall bladder removal.
Paterson was employed by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (Heft) and also worked at hospitals run by Spire Healthcare before he was suspended in 2011.
Reviews were carried out by Spire in 2014 and Heft in 2013, with the NHS hospital trust saying it had reviewed or cross-checked nearly 24,500 patient records to assess whether Paterson was involved in their care. Both organisations have paid millions in damages to hundreds of affected cancer patients. Paterson worked as a consultant at Solihull Hospital from 1998, and did work at private hospitals run by Spire Healthcare from 2007. Spire and the NHS have said they will fully co-operate with the new inquiry, with Heft saying it was to ensure “all patients are given the most appropriate follow-up care”.
Deborah Douglas, who helps run the Breast Friends support group, said: “For me the big thing now is how many other people were affected. “We want those facts – we want those figures.”
Paterson, then 59, was found guilty in April at Nottingham Crown Court of 17 counts of wounding with intent, after carrying out “cleavage-sparing mastectomies”, leaving patients at risk of cancer, and other procedures. He was jailed for 15 years, increased to 20 years on appeal after a judge ruled the original term “unduly lenient”. In December, the Department of Health announced a broader independent inquiry into Paterson’s malpractice and the lessons to be learned, falling short of the full public inquiry campaigners wanted. Mrs Douglas, 59, said she had little faith in the investigation’s chances of uncovering new information as it had no powers to compel people to give evidence. However, the mother-of-three added it could provide a “step forward” if full statistics on patient numbers, both those still alive and those who have since died, come out as a result of the inquiry.
She said: “The NHS have got some figures now, they’ve got the mastectomy figures. In the private sector we haven’t got any figures, we haven’t got the data for those patients that were involved.
“What we have got is a promise that we will have those figures. And that would be a step forward.”
Mrs Douglas, who was “mutilated” by Paterson in a cleavage-sparing mastectomy, said: “He was a general surgeon as well as a breast cancer surgeon. How many people out there, with wide local excisions, had recurrences and had secondary cancer?”