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Who Is to Blame When Private Surgery Goes Wrong? - Laura Williamson, Enable Law

06/07/17. We are all familiar with the NHS being sued when a doctor makes a mistake. The system is not perfect, but if a doctor has been negligent, the NHS, as an entity, is liable. The victim and their family know who they can claim against. Changes can be made to working practices if necessary, and lessons learnt.

However, what happens when a mistake occurs in a private hospital?

The Cautionary Tale of Ian Paterson

Ian Paterson, the disgraced breast surgeon, was recently jailed for fifteen years. For many years he carried out unnecessary surgery, exaggerating or inventing the risk of cancer. He also carried out so-called cleavage-sparing surgery, which increased the chances of secondary cancer.

Most of the claims against the NHS have been settled. However Paterson also operated on hundreds of private patients. This surgery was carried out at hospitals owned by Spire Healthcare. So far Spire has only settled a handful of claims. Even after being suspended by the General Medical Council, and banned from NHS surgery, he continued to operate at private hospitals. A test case will be decided in October to decide whether Spire can be held liable.

How Private Hospitals Avoid Blame

Usually when an employee makes a mistake, the employer is also considered to blame, and can be sued. Often the employee doesn’t have any assets, so it makes sense to sue the company they work for...

Image: public domain

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