Hundreds of patients will seek compensation after a breast surgeon was convicted of carrying out needless operations, solicitors have said.
Ian Paterson, 59, was found guilty of 17 counts of wounding with intent, relating to nine women and one man in the West Midlands.
Thompsons Solicitors said 350 women were now bringing a High Court case.
Law firm Slater and Gordon said there could be “hundreds, if not thousands” of other potential claimants.
Paterson, of Altrincham, Greater Manchester, was also found guilty of three counts of unlawful wounding at Nottingham Crown Court on Friday.
He was granted bail and is due to be sentenced in May.
The trial heard Paterson, who treated thousands of patients during his career, exaggerated or invented cancer risks and claimed payments for more expensive procedures in some cases.
The seven-week trial heard the accounts of 10 victims – representing a sample of those Paterson treated – operated on between 1997 and 2011 at the privately-run Little Aston and Parkway hospitals in the West Midlands.
Jurors were not told Paterson carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients, with a hospital trust paying out £17.8m in damages and legal costs.
Police said some of his victims believed Paterson wanted to “play God” with their lives and it is believed the surgeon may also have been driven by financial gain.
As a result of his work, he owned a luxury home in Birmingham’s Edgbaston area, numerous properties in Cardiff and Manchester and a holiday home in the US.
Paterson performed what he called “cleavage-sparing” mastectomies on many of his patients, leaving breast tissue behind to achieve a better cosmetic effect.
By doing so, he left them in great danger of developing secondary cancer, jurors heard during the trial.
‘Need for training’
Linda Millband, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “There are an enormous number of people who have suffered through having the incorrect diagnosis and have had totally erroneous treatment, and there are others who have been over-treated…
“Our case is not only against Mr Paterson, it is also against Spire Hospitals and the Heart of England Foundation Trust – and our allegations are that neither of the hospital authorities took the necessary steps to protect our victims and clients.”
An independent report in 2013, by lawyer Sir Ian Kennedy, found concerns about Paterson dated back to 2003 but were not dealt with for four years.
Sir Ian told the BBC: “There’s a very significant need for training in leadership amongst senior executives, so that they can take on the powerful, charismatic, charming, apparently highly successful operator and address with the right level of moral courage, what’s going on?”
In 1996, Paterson was suspended by a previous employer, but two years later he was appointed to the Heart of England NHS Trust.
In 2004, an internal report on his conduct made recommendations that were not acted upon, and he continued to operate until mid-2011, the Kennedy report said. He was eventually excluded by the trust and 642 patients were recalled.
In 2012 he was suspended by the regulator the General Medical Council.
Sir Ian said: “They (the boards of NHS Trusts) need to look at their culture to see whether it’s… putting at the forefront the care of patients, rather than the care of the staff, looking after the buildings, managing the money – they’re all important, but the most important [thing] is the patient.”
In total, Paterson operated on 4,424 people, although he treated thousands more privately.
Emma Doughty, clinical negligence solicitor for Slater and Gordon, said the true number of Paterson’s victims was hard to gauge.
“Although we have seen hundreds of claimants, God knows how many this actually affects,” she said.
“There are hundreds if not thousands of claimants (between various law firms) and then we have got to think about people who haven’t come forward, people who have died and so on.
“It’s on a huge scale.”
Spire Healthcare, which runs the hospitals at Little Aston and Parkway, said: “What Mr Paterson did in our hospitals, in other private hospitals and in the NHS, absolutely should not have happened and today justice has been done.
“We would like to reiterate how truly sorry we are for the distress experienced by any patients affected by this case.”
Heart of England NHS Trust said: “We welcome the verdict and appreciate the distress caused to Ian Paterson’s patients and families.”
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