Breast cancer patients who underwent operations at a West Midlands hospital are being given special health checks after a top surgeon’s procedures were called into question.

Solihull Hospital has offered further surgery or treatment to 60 patients who have been operated on in the past 10 years following concerns over the way mastectomy operations to remove cancerous breast tissue were carried out by surgeon Ian Paterson.

An investigation was launched after a fellow surgeon raised the alarm, calling into question Mr Paterson’s decision to leave a small amount of breast tissue around the cleavage for cosmetic reasons on some patients.

Most surgeons follow national guidelines to not leave in excess breast tissue, to reduce the risk of the cancer returning.

The probe led to 12 women being recalled immediately and offered surgery to have any remaining tissue removed.

More than 60 breast cancer patients operated on by Mr Paterson, who also works at the private Spire Little Aston, near Sutton Coldfield, and Solihull’s Spire Parkway Hospitals, are now being closely monitored for cancer reemergence following the “cleavage sparing mastectomy”.

One of the 60 women reviewed has redeveloped breast cancer since surgery at the NHS hospital run by Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust.

But West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit, which was drafted in to review cancer recurrence rates of all Mr Paterson’s patients over the past 10 years, said the fact that one patient had redeveloped the disease was currently in line with the Association of Breast Surgeons recognised rates for mastectomies of between three and five per cent.

Hospital director Lisa Dunn said Mr Paterson was still working at the hospital but was prevented from carrying out “cleavage sparing mastectomy” from June 2007 while the investigation was carried out.

“An external review highlighted that this was not a usual procedure and that Mr Patterson had not followed guidelines to introduce a new technique,” she said. 

“This trust’s position, after careful consideration, was that the technique was not an approach considered appropriate going forward, and the method was therefore stopped.

“During the procedure, a small amount of residual tissue was left to assist in providing an improved cleavage for the patient.

“We understand that Mr Paterson was carrying out this procedure in good faith, believing it to be appropriate for his patients, to achieve removal of the cancer, but with a better cosmetic result than a traditional mastectomy.

“We are committed to patient safety and we have completed a careful external review of breast cancer cases. As a precaution 12 patients have been identified.

“All of these patients have had their clinical care and condition reviewed and, where appropriate, have been offered further treatment options including additional surgery to remove any remaining residual tissue.

“As patients are regularly reviewed as part of their follow-up treatment those who have had the cleavage sparing mastectomy are monitored and provided with additional support.

“More than 60 patients have now been reviewed and we will continue to closely monitor the recurrence rate data and follow-up patients as part of their regular clinical reviews.”

Ms Dunn added that an external panel made up of two external and independent breast surgeons and an oncologist carried out the investigation, reviewing case notes of those patients which may have had cleavage sparing mastectomies.

Not all patients had the cleavage sparing mastectomies as it was mainly carried out on women with a larger bust who seemed more distraught at having their breasts removed, Ms Dunn said.

Following advice from the National Clinical Assessment Service, formal observations of Mr Patterson’s mastectomy surgery were also carried out.

The Glasgow-born consultant surgeon, who is a father-of-three and qualified in 1981, is also an honorary senior lecturer for the University of Birmingham and started working as a consultant in breast surgery at Good Hope Hospital, in Sutton Coldfield, in 1993.

In 1996, he received an Honary Professorship for vascular surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons.

Mr Paterson said he did not wish to comment.

He has been carrying out private and NHS work for a number of years.

Debbie Colebourn, spokeswoman for Spire Healthcare, which employs Mr Paterson in Solihull and Little Aston, said: “The foremost concern of Spire Parkway Hospital and Spire Little Aston Hospital clinical teams is always the welfare and safety of our patients.

“We set extremely high standards across every aspect of our hospitals which we carefully monitor, taking action quickly in circumstances where we suspect these have not been met.

“We have cooperated fully with the Heart of England Trust throughout their investigation and in line with their conclusions, Mr Paterson continues to practice at both Spire hospitals.”