View from a Surgeon: Policing our colleagues and ourselves

View from a Surgeon: Policing our colleagues and ourselves

We have all unfortunately seen the stories in the newspaper and on the television about the surgeon Ian Paterson who was charged with assault and actual bodily harm, who is likely to spend a significant amount of time in prison following this. He was accused of maliciously wounding ten patients, but there are also hundreds of patients who have been affected by his treatments.

This brings about a whole host of issues, not the least of which is who was watching this surgeon at the time when he was at the Trust? I think an element of blame needs to go out to his supervisors, who should have been watching what he was doing. Equally, there should have been audits which looked at the treatments that he was providing and whether they were adequate or not. Eventually, somebody did raise the questions and an investigation was started.

So, it is not just an issue of a rogue surgeon who has caused this problem, but now all of us have to work together and show the general public that he is an aberration in terms of the usual class and quality of medical staff. We are not like him. He is a criminal, and he deserves the end result of what has happened in terms of the court charging him and his prison sentence.

In any profession, and in any walk of life, there will always be these people that act maliciously. But I think the key lesson to be learned from this is that there is nothing wrong with questioning what a colleague does at any time; there is nothing wrong with highlighting it to supervisors, and making sure that we all conform to the high standards that we all know and expect from each other. But again, once issues are raised, it is vitally important to investigate these fully – that is not castigating people or going on witch hunts, but it is questioning issues like this that jeopardise people’s health.

The bottom line is we need to be observant and reflective about ourselves and our colleagues. We need to manage our audits and our patients properly, we need to ask questions if and when needed. But now, this having happened, we especially need to try and boost the public’s confidence in us, and need to rally around – not defend this man by any stretch – but to agree with the charges, with the end result and with what the courts have said, in order to reassure the general public that we are able to monitor, watch and police ourselves and our colleagues and hold each other to the highest standards. Because at the end of the day, we are here for one reason and one reason alone:

to “do no harm”

If we all adhere to that, as we should, then we can continue to do our job in the right way.


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