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Surgeons call for better patient safety in private sector

Author: Joanne King

Earlier this year, surgeon, Ian Paterson, was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent and 3 of unlawful wounding after carrying out unnecessary operations during breast surgery at private clinics in the West Midlands.

Following his conviction the Royal College of Surgeons have called for a review by the next government of how safety standards and transparency can improve, particularly in the private sector.

Questions have been raised as to how Ian Paterson was able to practice for so long and why his malpractice was not spotted and not challenged by his colleagues.

Miss Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons has 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.

It is important to remember that the overwhelming majority of doctors work with diligence and commitment, often under great pressure, motivated to understand and meet the needs of their patients as best as they can.  Modern day medical practice – which includes annual appraisals as part of revalidation and rules around team decision making and patient consent – means rogue doctors are more likely to be identified at an early stage and remedial action initiated.”

Surgeons are calling for an equal focus on patients’ safety in both the private and public sectors.  Whilst the Royal College of Surgeons are not suggesting there is evidence of less safe care in the private sector compared with NHS, the private sector is less transparent on reporting safety incidents.  The government has been urged to consider ensuring private hospitals have to report unexpected deaths and serious injuries in the same way as hospitals in the NHS.  There are also calls for better regulation of cosmetic surgery which is mostly carried out in private clinics.

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