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Having been a breast cancer surgeon for 33 years, I find this case heartbreaking, and I can only apologise on behalf of the profession. Jonathan Ashworth highlighted that the way in which women were treated after the event and the fact that they had to fight for help and compensation added insult to injury.
As the Minister said, this was not a failure of processes not existing; it was a failure of processes that were not enforced. This scandal went on for 14 years, which highlights a failure to listen to people who raised concerns early on and the fact that there was a power differential between Paterson and people who were raising concerns. It should have been striking that his rate of surgery was so much higher among his private patients than his NHS patients. His practice was not being looked at within NHS quality audits, which might have shown that up. What will the Government do to ensure that all units are taking part in national audits, which faded away over the last decade, and in Getting it Right First Time, so that units cannot just opt out? Will that be rolled out to the independent sector, to ensure that units take part in national audits?
Breast cancer is a multidisciplinary team specialty, but we have to do a 360° appraisal only every five years. To me, that is the most telling and most important part of appraisal, and the Government should look at that part of appraisal being made more frequent and, again, being extended to private hospitals.
The Health Service Safety Investigations Body is currently envisaged as working only in NHS hospitals and for NHS patients treated in independent hospitals. Surely the Government recognise that the Bill legislating for that will need to be amended, to ensure that the HSSIB can investigate across the piece.
Once again, we come back to whistleblowers who have raised concerns, have not been listened to and have been suffering detriment, and an opportunity to stop Paterson many years earlier has been missed. What reforms are the Government planning genuinely to support whistleblowers? I am presenting a private Member’s Bill tomorrow, because we need a root-and-branch reform of how whistleblowers are treated.