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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

£37m compensation to be paid out to victims of disgraced surgeon Ian Paterson

Written by Jane Kirby

Around 750 private patients treated by disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson will receive compensation from a new £37 million fund.

Spire Healthcare, which runs private hospitals in the West Midlands where Paterson worked, will contribute £27.2 million to the fund.

A further £10 million will be provided by Paterson's insurers and the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.

Paterson was found guilty in April at Nottingham Crown Court of 17 counts of wounding with intent, and three further wounding charges.

He was initially sentenced to 15 years in jail but this was upped to 20 in August after Court of Appeal judges ruled the sentence was too lenient.

The announcement of the new fund is intended to halt further legal proceedings by private patients and account for any new claims made before October 2018.

More than 500 of Paterson's private patients had been due to take their case to the High Court next month.

Simon Gordon, interim chief executive at Spire, said: "Earlier this year a criminal court decided that Ian Paterson must bear responsibility for his actions, finding him guilty of assaulting a number of his patients.

"He behaved with clear criminal intent and abused the trust of those who looked to him for his care and relied upon his expertise.

"However, whilst nothing diminishes Mr Paterson's responsibility for his actions, these events took place in our hospitals, and this should not have happened.

"We accept that better clinical governance in the private hospitals where Mr Paterson practised, as well as in his NHS trust, might have led to action being taken sooner, and it is right that we have made a material contribution to the settlement announced today.

"We have apologised unreservedly to Mr Paterson's patients for their suffering and distress and we would like to repeat that apology.

"As soon as the criminal trial ended we were able to start liaising with claimants' lawyers to broker a settlement involving all defendants. This has resulted in the agreement announced today."

Emma Doughty, a specialist medical negligence lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents more than 100 of Paterson's victims, said: "No financial settlement will ever heal the physical and mental scars inflicted on our clients but they are relieved that they have finally won their battle for justice.

"Even when Paterson was charged and then convicted earlier this year, Spire refused to countenance that they were responsible for his actions, despite his crimes taking place in their hospitals.

"As a result, his victims have faced a long wait not knowing whether they would be compensated for the pain he caused them.

"We are pleased that Spire has finally agreed to settle these cases and importantly, we hope this settlement will send a message to other private healthcare providers that patient safety must be their priority.

"It is now crucial that all of the weaknesses in the private sector management, which allowed Paterson to do what he did for so long, are addressed and overhauled to reassure the public that something like this can never happen again."

During the trial it emerged that Paterson, who treated thousands of patients during his career, exaggerated or invented cancer risks and claimed payments for more expensive procedures.

He also carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients.

The NHS has so far paid more than £17 million in compensation and costs for victims.

Figures from NHS Resolution show that as of July 31, it had received 277 claims involving Paterson's NHS practice and paid a total of £17,411,639 on those cases.

The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust was also part of the civil action after accusations it failed to notify Spire of Paterson's questionable and dangerous practices, discovered years earlier.

Paterson's trial heard from nine women and one man who were treated in the private sector at Little Aston and Parkway Hospitals in the West Midlands between 1997 and 2011.

Victims said Paterson's crimes had left them in constant pain and struggling to trust medical professionals.

One of Paterson's victims says the news of the payout still doesn't feel real, but that she's "happy" the matter is almost settled.

Former pub landlady Carole Johnson, 65, underwent seven unnecessary operations on Paterson's advice between 2000 until he was suspended in 2012.

She was one of the sample of 10 victims that Paterson was prosecuted for.

Mrs Johnson, from Sheldon in Birmingham, told Press Association: "I haven't got a clue how long it's going to take. I feel pleased that it's going to be settled, but until I've actually got it, then I don't know how I'm going to feel.

"It's been going on for so long now, but I do think 'That's another hurdle that we're over'."

She added: "I feel happy that we've got an ending. But until it's been completed, I suppose that will be when it's for real."

One of Mrs Johnson's operations was so rushed that Paterson didn't leave any record of it on the hospital's systems.

"It's still not real that he did it. There was no need to have those surgeries done," she said.

"It's devastating. As a victim you can't have any trust in the medical profession again.

"It's a terrible feeling to be honest."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joe Giddens / PA Wire.