College Focuses on Support and Openness in wake of Ian Paterson Conviction

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02 May 2017

The RCSEd has reacted to the conviction of breast surgeon Ian Paterson by advocating greater communication and openness among staff and patients. The verdict reached by Nottingham Crown Court on 28 April found Paterson guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent, and three of unlawful wounding, after carrying out unnecessary operations.

Responding to the verdict, RCSEd President Professor Michael Lavelle-Jones said: “The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh would like to express our concern for all patients affected by the actions of Ian Paterson. Unnecessary or inappropriate surgery should not happen, and reflects poorly on the surgical profession. Employers and hospitals, together with the regulatory authorities, must learn from this, and the Royal College of Surgeons will continue to work with them to ensure that these events are not repeated.

“The primary aim of our College, and of our Fellows and Members throughout the UK, is to deliver safe, effective care to our patients. That delivery is the responsibility of the entire surgical team, and decisions about the nature of that care must involve all members of that team, as well as the patient themselves. We must hold ourselves to high standards laid down by the GMC and overseen locally by Hospital Trusts and other employing bodies.

“We understand that this surgeon worked in isolation, and carried out unconventional and controversial practices. It is difficult to police this in the private sector. However, the modern surgical profession has made huge advances toward eradicating the working practices that allowed this to happen. In addition, we must change the culture in which such a surgeon can remain unchallenged, with the team around them perhaps aware of some of the issues, but too scared to speak up. This can be fostered by a working environment where any professional can express concern without fear of harassment or bullying. The College has been working to develop a range of resources and initiatives, to be released shortly, which will support the profession to achieve this cultural change.

“The focus of the surgical profession must be on teamwork, discussion, mutual respect and informed patient consent, in the NHS and in the private sector. Patients and healthcare professionals alike must be supported to speak out if they are uncomfortable with any element of care. As professionals, we have a duty to protect our patients from damaging and unnecessary treatments.”

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