Birmingham & Black Country

Solihull cancer patients 'overlooked' in hospital review

A solicitor representing women affected by alleged botched or unnecessary breast cancer operations has said only a "handful" have been contacted during an inquiry.

Kashmir Uppal was speaking following a report in The Times, which said the inquiry was ignoring patients.

The review is looking at services at Solihull Hospital.

Heart of England NHS Trust said patients had been repeatedly "invited to come forward".

The independent inquiry, led by Sir Ian Kennedy, started in January and is expected to report its findings in two months' time.

It is focussing on breast cancer care at Solihull Hospital after concerns over procedures carried out by surgeon Ian Paterson between 1994 and 2011.

Unnecessary surgery

Mr Paterson stopped performing breast cancer operations at the Heart of England NHS Trust in May 2011.

Seven months later, more than 500 of his patients were recalled following concerns about his work.

Mr Paterson is accused of performing incomplete "cleavage-sparing" mastectomies at Solihull Hospital and two private hospitals owned by Spire Healthcare in Solihull and Little Aston, Staffordshire.

He is also accused of wrongly diagnosing patients with breast cancer, with some patients going on to have unnecessary surgery.

Last year he was suspended by the General Medical Council after it found that the procedure, which left a small amount of tissue for cosmetic reasons, breached national guidelines because of the risk of the cancer returning.

Mr Paterson's work, including that for Spire Healthcare is the subject of an investigation by West Midlands Police. The private healthcare firm said it was also carrying out its own review.

'Very emotive'

Solicitor Ms Uppal, who is representing 350 women treated by the surgeon said she was disappointed so few had been spoken to as part of the hospital inquiry.

Gail Boichat
For 17 years, Gail Boichat mistakenly believed she had cancer after undergoing an operation in 1995

"Women have been affected by these treatments and I feel that as part of the investigation those involved would be spoken to," she said.

"Only a handful of my clients have been contacted.

"There was an open meeting [earlier this year] in Solihull with Sir Ian and it was very emotive, a lot of people were upset about what has happened.

"My clients said that Sir Ian said for people to contact him in writing and many did, but several were told their statements weren't needed and one client asked to see him but she was not contacted.

"Maybe it was an oversight but it's a shame no-one said something like, thank you for getting in touch but we have finished that part of the review."

Gail Boichat, who had a cleavage-sparing operation at Heart of England's Good Hope Hospital in 1995, mistakenly thought she had had cancer for 17 years.

She said she asked to meet Sir Ian but said it was too hard to put her experience in writing which is what Sir Ian requested first before discussing her case in more detail.

"I did ask for a face-to-face but I didn't get one," she said.

Patient confidentiality

In a letter to The Times, Sir Ian said he had seen and spoken to "dozens" of patients, who he said were very much "at the centre" of the review

Heart of England NHS Trust said repeated calls had been made for patients to come forward, but it had been advised not to contact them individually, following legal advice "that this would breach patient confidentiality rules".

It said 21 patients and their relatives were interviewed as part of the inquiry and a group meeting held.

A spokesperson said: "Patients who were not interviewed were those that were either treated by Spire Healthcare [which is not part of this review] or who got in touch well beyond the interview dates."

A spokesman for the Medical Defence Union, who is representing Mr Paterson, said he could not comment due to patient confidentiality and the ongoing investigation.

West Midlands Police confirmed its "wide ranging" investigation was continuing and no arrests had been made.

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