RCS calls for review of private sector

The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) has called for a review of safety standards in private hospitals.

This follows the case of Ian Paterson – a surgeon who was convicted last month of unlawfully wounding patients during breast surgery at private clinics in the West Midlands. He is due to be sentenced this month.

The president and vice-presidents of the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) have issued an open letter reassuring the public that rogue doctors should now be caught by modern rules governing medical practice. However, they warn there is no room for complacency and the RCS has called for a review by the next Government of how safety standards and transparency can improve, particularly in the private sector.

In the letter, they welcome the Secretary of State for Health’s suggestion that an inquiry be conducted by the next Government to understand how Ian Paterson was able to practise for so long. They say the review “should build on the findings of Sir Ian Kennedy’s report as well as the independent review of the governance arrangements at Spire Parkway and Little Aston hospitals and assess what action has been taken following those reviews.”

The RCS Council will also review the Paterson case and judgment, in particular to understand why doctors were unable to spot or unwilling to challenge Ian Paterson’s malpractice. 

The surgeons also call for ‘An equal focus on patient safety in both the private and public sectors’, warning in particular that there is poorer public availability of patient safety and clinical data from private hospitals. 

Miss Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “Ian Paterson wilfully abused the trust placed in him by patients at their most vulnerable. His actions and behaviour were appalling and we must do everything in our power to prevent such a violation being repeated.

“Patient safety initiatives have tended to concentrate on the NHS but we also need a strong focus on the private sector, particularly in the collection and publication of patient safety data in private hospitals. We are therefore calling for a review of the sector to look at how safety standards and data transparency can improve. Similarly, regulation is not keeping pace with the booming industry of cosmetic surgery, which also largely takes place in the private sector.

“We continue to call for the General Medical Council to be given powers to annotate the medical register with details of which surgeons are qualified to undertake cosmetic surgery.”

At the end of April, the Nottingham crown court found surgeon Ian Paterson guilty of seventeen counts of wounding with intent, and three of unlawful wounding, after carrying out unnecessary operations. 


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