Ministers are to reveal their plans for making private hospitals safer for patients within months, The Independent has been told.
The government has faced calls to act on concerns over the safety of private hospitals after it was alleged in a leaked report that world renowned surgeon Derek McMinn had collected thousands of bones and tissue samples from his patients over a 25 year period.
Mr McMinn has also been criticised in an internal report over his surgical practices at the BMI Edgbaston Hospital where he and two anaesthetists allegedly subjected patients to prolonged anaesthesia so he could operate on multiple patients at the same time.
It is claimed some patients were anaesthetised more than an hour and 42 minutes before surgery started and their blood pressure was dropped so low they may have suffered organ and brain damage.
The police are investigating an alleged breach of the Human Tissue Act and Mr McMinn is being investigated by the General Medical Council.
The BMI Edgbaston Hospital delayed sharing the full scale of his actions with regulators and an investigation by the company found staff at the hospital went along with the collection of bodily tissue and bones.
His actions have been linked to the scandal of Ian Paterson, the rogue breast surgeon who carried out unnecessary surgeries on more than 1,000 women over at least 14 years. Patterson was jailed for 20 years in 2017 but an inquiry into what happened found there were widespread failings and “wilful blindness” to his actions that meant he was able to carry on harming women.
The inquiry made 15 recommendations to improve safety in private sector hospitals including better monitoring of consultants and suggested the government act over how doctors are able to avoid scrutiny by not being directly employed by hospitals.
Patient safety minister Nadine Dorries told Parliament earlier this year that the government’s response to the inquiry would be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement to The Independent in the wake of the McMinn allegations a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are committed to improving the safety and quality of care provided to all patients. We are working closely with our public and private health colleagues to learn lessons from the Paterson Inquiry and will make recommendations to further improve patient safety later this year.”
David Rowland, director for the Centre for Health and the Public Interest think tank, which has investigated safety weaknesses in private hospitals said the McMinn case had “echoes of Paterson” with nobody apparently willing to challenge the consultant or report his behaviour.
He added: “Part of the problem is that the consultant is so central to the commercial success of private hospitals. They bring in so much money, it is a perverse incentive for the hospitals not to put that at risk. There is an inbuilt reluctance to challenge them.”
He said the failure of BMI to share its investigation report into Mr McMinn with regulators when it was completed in 2019 was a “a serious cause of concern” adding: “There is a big risk that the expansion of private hospital services for the NHS without major reform of how their business model operates is going to mean NHS patients are put at risk of harm and patients going into these hospitals will be completely unaware of the risks.
“There needs to be a full inquiry looking at the alleged individual acts of Derek McMinn and the staff as well as what the hospital did once it became aware.”
Debbie Douglas, who runs a support group for victims of Ian Paterson said she hoped the DHSC would act quickly and not simply produce a timetable that will take another two years to deliver.