A surgeon accused of carrying out hundreds of botched breast cancer operations has been suspended by a health watchdog.

Ian Paterson, of Edgbaston, is accused of performing "cleaving sparing" mastectomies at three Birmingham hospitals which increased the chance of the disease returning through breast tissue being left in patients.

Initially, the General Medical Council (GMC) imposed conditions on his registration.

Although he could not carry out breast operations, he was still allowed to perform general surgery work and conduct outpatient consultations with those suffering from breast disease.

But the GMC confirmed a decision had now been made to suspend his registration until an investigation was completed into his practise. The procedures were carried out at Solihull Hospital, run by Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, and two private hospitals run by the Spire Healthcare Group in Solihull and Little Aston.

More than 700 women treated by Mr Paterson have been urgently referred to specialists for new examinations.

Ally Taft, a solicitor for law firm Alsters Kelley, which is representing women who are taking legal action, welcomed the decision to suspend him. She said: "I am still receiving regular enquiries from ladies and it seems sensible to suspend him until matters can be investigated fully, in order to provide some comfort to members of the public. I feel the GMC have taken the correct and appropriate steps given the circumstances."

Last month it emerged Spire Healthcare was investigating the cases of up to 450 patients over claims Mr Paterson may have unnecessarily removed lumps from their breasts.

The operations were said to have involved the cutting out of benign ‘non-cancerous’ tissue at the Solihull and Little Aston sites.

The group received complaints that the lumps could have been investigated for cancer with a simple biopsy, possibly avoiding surgery and resultant scarring.

The medical files of women operated on by Mr Paterson at the hospitals between 2004 and 2011 are being checked as part of the investigation into the surgeon.