NHS chief criticised over ‘cover up’ of Neil Paterson apologises and says tried to protect patients

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The NHS Trust chief accused of covering up the actions of disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson today apologised to the thousands of victims.

Mark Goldman was head of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust (Heft) while Paterson worked there.

The doctor is thought to have performed up to 1,000 botched and unnecessary operations over a 14-year period.

Mr Goldman, from St Albans, announced his retirement as chief executive of Heft in 2010 – three months before news of a recall of Ian Paterson’s patients hit the headlines.

Today he said he had tried to do what he thought was best for patients. 

Speaking to Mail Online he said: ‘I am profoundly apologetic about the things I did at the time, that I did in good faith, believing them to be in the interests of patient safety. ‘

‘Clearly this did not contain Patterson‘s criminal behaviour, we know that now. I was not aware of the extent of his misdemeanours at the time.’

Earlier this week the results of a two year investigation into Paterson’s behaviour concluded that all 11,000 of his patients – both at the NHS Trust and the private health company Spire – must be recalled to check on their treatment.

The report by Bishop Graham James concluded that a culture of ‘denial’ among healthcare workers enabled Paterson to perform more than 1,000 botched or unnecessary operations over a 14-year period.

And it laid bare a litany of blunders which allowed him to continue practising after his bosses and colleagues displayed a ‘wilful blindness’ to his conduct.

Paterson, 62, is serving 20 years in jail for 17 counts of wounding with intent. 

Mr Goldman said he had co-operated fully with two independent enquiries and would talk to anyone who felt they had suffered at the hands of Paterson. 

‘I’m happy to talk to them, happy to personally apologise to them,’ he said. ‘I have made that offer in the past and I make it now.‘

Mr Goldman retired with the bumper pension pot in August 2010.

Two years later, he was back working for the NHS, this time as interim chief executive at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. For this he was paid £135,000 for five months’ work. 

When asked about how he felt that he left Heft with a £2.7 million pension pot while Paterson’s victims were having to pay for private health care to correct mistakes he said: ‘It’s true, It’s true.

‘I’m sorry for their financial suffering I truly am. My own career in the NHS lasted many many years and during the era I diligently pursued my job as anyone who worked alongside me I think would confirm.

‘I can only say that the NHS pension scheme is a very generous public sector pension scheme. I haven’t done anything other than subscribe to using the NHS scheme.

‘I can only add weight to my deep regret what I did at the time – or what the trust did – as I wasn’t the only one making decisions – seemed appropriate at that time.’

In 2017, a previous report found ‘weak, indecisive and secretive’ managers hid the rogue surgeon’s failings. 

The Kennedy Report accused Mr Goldman and colleagues of seeking ‘to contain the fall-out’. 

Mr Goldman added: ‘What can I say? Other than what I tried to express to the Bishop and that is that I don’t see any way in which I will ever get over this personally. 

‘That is not to diminish anyway what others have had to contend and I don’t want any sympathy.

‘But I can’t put it right for them and I hope they find a way to put it right for themselves. I never manipulated the system.’

Mr Goldman also denied rumours that he only quit the trust because Paterson’s crimes were about to become public.

He added: ‘There is a presumption that because of the timing of my retirement that it was associated with Patterson.

‘Whatever I say people will presume that but it is coincidental.

‘I had served my six months notice before all this came to light due to reasons personal to me that I don’t wish to discuss .’

Victims have demanded that hospital bosses who failed to take action against Paterson should be held to account over the scandal. No senior NHS figure has yet been. 

They also called for the doctor to face manslaughter charges over his malpractice. Five of Paterson’s colleagues have been referred to health watchdogs by the inquiry and one matter to the police.

 

Survivors of disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson vowed to ensure lessons are learned from yesterday’s damning report – as relatives of those who died after his operations called for him to face manslaughter charges.

Debbie Douglas, who suffered ‘needless’ surgery at the doctor’s hands, said all the recommendations from Bishop Graham James’s inquiry must be implemented.

In September 2017, more than 750 patients treated by Paterson received compensation payouts from a £37million fund.

Mrs Douglas provided a first-hand account to the inquiry, adding: ‘If you were a Paterson patient you were 50 per cent more likely to get a recurrence of breast cancer because you’ve been left with breast tissue, basically a time bomb, in your chest, ready to explode and ready to give you cancer because he didn’t remove it.’

Mrs Douglas welcomed the inquiry’s referral of individuals to authorities including the police.

She said: ‘The fight goes on until the legislation has changed. We don’t want somebody from the Government giving us lip service. It sickens me. Lessons aren’t learned unless legislations change. You look at the GMC – why, when people have reported the same consultant over and over again, is that consultant still working?’

Tracey Smith, another former patient, said: ‘I’ve always been angry, from 2012 when I was told my breast cancer surgery was unnecessary – hence why myself and Deb [Douglas] went to Whitehall and fought for this inquiry. We will continue to fight so that the recommendations are put in place to stop this from ever happening in the NHS or the Spire or any private hospital in the country.’

Lesley Cuthbert, who was also given unnecessary surgery in 2006, said: ‘Vulnerable patients like me were taken advantage of by a supposedly highly respected senior consultant who was given a high level of responsibility and autonomy in the private sector. We need better monitoring of surgeons operating in the private healthcare sector including independent and rigorous appraisals together with proper investigation of any concerns raised about a surgeon.’

The husband of a patient who died following unorthodox surgery from Paterson demanded he face more justice. Denise Bridgewater was introduced to Paterson after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004.

He performed a ‘cleavage-sparing’ mastectomy – where he only removed a small amount of tissue to allow some women to keep the shape of their breasts – on her. Her cancer returned in 2010 and she died four years later.

Her husband Alan said: ‘If Paterson had done the surgery correctly in the first place I think she’d still have had a fighting chance – she wouldn’t have had the septicaemia or renal failure or pneumonia. He’s an evil guy who’s just out to make money for himself and people died as a result of that.’

Mr Bridgewater called for Paterson to be brought back to court over his patients’ deaths. ‘If there are charges for manslaughter then he should get life,’ he added.

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