A rogue breast cancer surgeon who harmed hundreds of women could have been stopped years earlier, whistleblowers have claimed.
Two senior doctors who raised concerns about Ian Paterson as early as 2003 have spoken publicly for the first time about how their warnings were ignored.
One whistleblower claims he was told Paterson was untouchable because he made too much money for the private hospital where he practised.
Paterson, 59, was accused of ‘playing God’, and jailed for 20 years in May for harming ten women he conned into having surgery.
Lawyers believe that over two decades he maimed more than 1,000 women in the Midlands – both NHS and private – many of whom were convinced into having unnecessary procedures.
The surgeon was obsessed with a controversial method for removing breast cancer tumours known as ‘cleavage-saving mastectomies’. This involves leaving behind large amounts of breast tissue after the tumour has been cut out, increasing the risk of it coming back.
Several women died after the cancer returned and spread, although there is no proof this was a direct result of the surgery. Paterson was suspended from working as a surgeon in 2011, but colleagues raised concerns about his practices eight years earlier, it has emerged.
Retired consultant oncologist Dr Andrew Stockdale says he reported problems to the NHS in 2003 – a decade before Paterson was interviewed by police. And Dr Eli Leyton, a retired GP, reported the surgeon to a private hospital manager in 2008 after discovering one of his patients was just 24 hours away from an unnecessary operation.
Last week the Government launched an independent inquiry into Paterson’s malpractice. Dr Leyton was working as a GP in Solihull when he discovered a patient was due to have an operation at a private hospital.
He told an ITV documentary about Paterson: ‘I rang this lady up straight away and said, “Have you had the operation yet?” and she said, “No, it’s tomorrow morning.” I said, “You must ring up and cancel your operation because I don’t trust Ian Paterson.”?’
Dr Leyton complained to one of Paterson’s managers, Will Knights, at the Spire Parkway hospital. ‘He says to me, “There is no way we can suspend him because he brings in too much money.”?’
A spokesman for Mr Knights said he had no recollection of making the comments.
The Butcher Surgeon: A Scandal Uncovered is on ITV at 7.30pm tonight.