Claiming compensation from a private hospital: what lessons can we learn from the Ian Paterson case?

Wed 4th Mar 2020

Following the prosecution of surgeon Ian Paterson, Julie Hatton, Partner at Coodes Solicitors, comments on the complexities of claiming compensation from a private hospital.

The recent revelations about breast surgeon Ian Paterson demonstrate what can go wrong when surgeons are not adequately managed by a healthcare provider. This shocking case also highlights the challenges of pursuing a clinical negligence claim against a private hospital.

Mr Paterson is now serving a 20-year jail sentence for 17 counts of wounding with intent after performing unnecessary and ‘botched’ operations on hundreds of patients. The independent inquiry into the case has recommended his 11,000 patients now also have their treatment assessed.

The report also pointed to a culture of “avoidance and denial”, which allowed Mr Paterson’s behaviour to go unchecked. Since the hearing some of his colleagues have also been referred to the police.

Many of Mr Paterson’s patients were subjected to unnecessary surgery, after he exaggerated their risk of developing cancer. He also carried out a number of unregulated ‘cleavage-sparing’ mastectomies, which left breast tissue behind and led to patients suffering a relapse.

Will Ian Paterson’s victims receive compensation?

While many of Mr Paterson’s victims who were treated at the NHS hospital have now received compensation, many of those who chose to undergo procedures in a private setting were left without compensation as Mr Paterson’s Medical Defence Union used its discretion to withdraw cover because Paterson’s activity was criminal.

Mr Paterson was not an employee in the private or NHS hospitals in which he carried out procedures, but instead worked independently, effectively on a freelance basis.

Who is responsible for clinical negligence in a private hospital?

When a patient suffers negligent care during a procedure carried out by a private surgeon it can be difficult to apportion blame.

In clinical negligence cases involving the NHS, we would guide our clients through the process of making a claim against the hospital or healthcare trust. However, the situation is generally more complex with cases involving private consultants. That is because private surgeons typically rent the space from a private hospital. In these instances, the surgeon has no supervision from the hospital and the healthcare provider will generally deny any responsibility for private surgeons’ mistakes or negligence.

The current system of indemnity cover for a consultant surgeon working in a private hospital is unregulated. In the event of the Medical Defence Organisation and hospital failing to provide cover there is no safety-net to provide patients with compensation.

Can I make a clinical negligence claim against a private hospital?

This case raises a number of issues and it will be interesting to see what changes as a result. In the meantime, I hope it will make people more aware of the complexities surrounding insurance in private hospitals.

Most people receive excellent care in NHS and private hospitals. However, if you are unfortunate enough to be among the few whose treatment is below standard please seek help. Compensation can not only provide you with financial means to cover some of the setbacks, which could include loss of earnings and covering the cost of care, but may also help you get recognition for the wrongs you have suffered.

Claiming compensation against a private hospital or individual consultant can be a complicated journey. Having an expert medical negligence lawyer, with experience of these types of cases, will give you the best chance of getting the justice you deserve.

For more information and advice on this issue from Coodes Solicitors, contact Julie Hatton in the Clinical Negligence team on 01326 214 036 or

Wed 4th Mar 2020

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