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Catch rogue surgeons by forcing private hospitals to disclose botched operations data, top doctors demand

Catch rogue surgeons by forcing private hospitals to disclose botched operations data, top doctors demand

Private hospitals should be forced to reveal details of botched operations and unexpected deaths in a bid to catch rogue surgeons, doctors leaders have said. The Royal College of Surgeons is calling for an “urgent” end to opaque practices in the private sector in the wake of the Ian Paterson scandal. The Birmingham-based breast surgeon was convicted last month of performing unnecessary and dangerous operations on 10 patients, however experts believe the true number of victims may be over 1,000. The professional body demanded to know why none of Paterson’s colleagues detected his wrongdoing or challenged him.

In a letter to the Government, the Royal College said private hospitals should be obliged to report data on serious injuries, unexpected deaths and so-called “never events” - serious incidents that are entirely preventable. Surgical leaders say that, while safety and oversight standards have improved in the NHS since Paterson was suspended in 2012, the actions of private doctors remain far less open to scrutiny.  They have called for a national review of safety in the paid-for sector, saying the Paterson scandal proves “malicious behaviour” can still take place in the health system, the letter states. “We must find out why he was able to cause so much harm for so long and what can be done to minimise the risks of similar incidents in the future,” the letter reads.

A 2014 investigation by the Centre for Health and the Public Interest concluded that “little is known about the quality and safety of care” because of the reluctance of private hospital bosses to share data. While the sector now publishes some comparative patient outcome data, it is argued this is not enough to enable the detection of dangerous or criminal doctors. Private hospitals have to disclose details of never events to the Care Quality Commission, but not to the general public or academics who can analyse them. The royal college wants private hospitals to be forced to reveal the same information as those in the NHS.

Paterson was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three of unlawful wounding, for procedures that left some victims in permanent pain. The surgeon worked for years at the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust in Birmingham, which has settled more than 250 cases, and at Spire Parkway and Little Aston hospitals, which are private.

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