All parts of the healthcare system, including clinicians, providers and regulators, must work together to ensure that patient safety is prioritised and that another Ian Paterson scandal is avoided, the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) has stated.
It comes after the publication of the Bishop of Norwich’s independent inquiry report into the case of Paterson, the disgraced breast surgeon who worked with cancer patients at NHS and private hospitals in the West Midlands over 14 years.
The report states that a culture of avoidance and denial allowed Paterson to perform botched and unnecessary operations on hundreds of women.
It advises the recall of his 11,000 patients for their surgery to be assessed.
The report recommends it should be made standard practice for consultants to write directly to patients to explain proposed surgical treatment; a public register should be created detailing which types of operations surgeons are able to perform; and patients should be allowed time to reflect on their diagnosis and treatment options before they are asked to consent to surgery.
David Hare, chief executive of the IHPN, said the report rightly puts the voices of Paterson’s victims and families at the heart, and makes clear that a whole-systems solution will be needed to minimise the chances of any similar cases happening again.
“The independent sector has already taken important steps to help improve the way that healthcare settings communicate concerns about clinicians that work across multiple sites, and will consider the recommendations in the report to assess what more can be done,” he added.
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, claimed that both the NHS and independent sector are committed to work together and to share intelligence to make sure that patients are not let down by individual clinicians in this way again.
“While the vast majority of care in this country is of high quality and underpinned by robust safety and medical governance processes, more can and should be done,” he said.
Dr Neil Haughton, president of the Independent Doctors Federation, “strongly endorsed” the recommendations of the independent enquiry.
He said: into the malpractice of former surgeon, Ian Paterson, and has issued the following statement: “The IDF welcomes the Bishop of Norwich’s findings in the Paterson Inquiry and unreservedly condemns Paterson’s criminal actions.
“The implications for his patients have been catastrophic and we fully sympathise with their situation. His crimes took place both in the NHS and private sector at a time when regulation and accountability were nowhere near as robust as they are now with GMC [General Medical Council] revalidation for all medical practitioners and regular CQC [Care Quality Commission] inspections.
“Medical and surgical care is usually carried out to the highest standard in independent hospitals. However, we recognise that communication between sectors has on occasion been substandard and this is now also being improved through numerous initiatives.
“The IDF has always sought to promote excellence in private medicine and we have robust processes in place as a designated body to facilitate this and to challenge unacceptable behaviour in our connected members.
“Our thoughts today are with the victims of this surgeon and we will fully endorse any changes needed to improve safety in all areas of our profession.”
Peter Connor, managing director of Healthcode, the clearing company for medical bills, said: “The best way to respect the many victims of Ian Paterson, is to ensure that no one else will have to go through their harrowing experience.
“While there were a number of contributory factors in this troubling case, the Inquiry Report is damning about the systems in place for clinical governance and it is clear this was hampered by a deficit of accurate information and barriers to information-sharing. We believe that industry leaders are starting to address these issues but it’s clear we need to act quickly if public trust is not to be eroded further.
“In our evidence to the Inquiry, Healthcode pointed out that the technology now exists to ensure hospitals have access to accurate information about their consultants. The Private Practice Register already holds accurate information about more than 18,000 independent practitioners and Healthcode is committed to working closely with our hospital user group to ensure it will give them the insights they need and support their clinical governance processes.
“Along with everyone in the private sector, Healthcode will take time to consider the Report and its recommendations. However, we believe that addressing the information deficit within hospitals would show we are learning lessons and start to meet our obligations to Paterson’s victims.”
Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, chair of the Private Healthcare Information Network (PHIN), added that changes have been introduced to reduce the reporting gap between private and NHS healthcare, with PHIN publishing more information for patients about private healthcare than has been available before.
“However, data reporting and clinical governance too often remains fragmented,” he said. “A single repository of whole practice consultant information, available to managers and healthcare professionals will support better clinical governance and help identify patterns of poor care at an earlier stage. It is vital that this is also available to the public in an accessible and understandable way.”
The PHIN will shortly launch a consultation with NHS Digital which considers the first steps in working toward the creation of a single unified dataset for planned hospital admissions in England.
“Patients deserve the best standards of care and peace of mind that their consultants and hospitals are held accountable, regardless of whether their care is funded through the NHS or by themselves,” added Vallance-Owen.