£37m fund for victims of disgraced surgeon Ian Paterson 'doesn't feel real'
One of the victims of disgraced breast surgeon Ian Paterson has said the news she will receive compensation out of a newly agreed £37 million fund "doesn't feel real".
Around 750 private patients treated by Paterson will get a payout from the sum.
Spire Healthcare, which runs private hospitals in the West Midlands where Paterson worked, will contribute £27.2 million to the total.
A further £10 million will be provided by Paterson's insurers and the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.
One of Paterson's victims says the news of the payout still doesn't feel real but that she is "happy" the matter is almost settled.
Former pub landlady Carole Johnson, 65, underwent seven unnecessary operations on Paterson's advice between 2000 until he was suspended in 2012.
Mrs Johnson, from Sheldon in Birmingham, told the Press Association: "I haven't got a clue how long it's going to take. I feel pleased that it's going to be settled, but until I've actually got it, then I don't know how I'm going to feel.
"It's been going on for so long now but I do think 'That's another hurdle that we're over'."
She added: "I feel happy that we've got an ending. But until it's been completed, I suppose that will be when it's for real."
One of Mrs Johnson's operations was so rushed that Paterson did not leave any record of it on the hospital's systems.
"It's still not real that he did it. There was no need to have those surgeries done," she said.
"It's devastating. As a victim you can't have any trust in the medical profession again.
"It's a terrible feeling to be honest."
Paterson was found guilty in April at Nottingham Crown Court of 17 counts of wounding with intent, and three further wounding charges.
Mrs Johnson was one of the sample of 10 victims that Paterson was prosecuted for.
He was initially sentenced to 15 years in jail but this was increased to 20 in August after Court of Appeal judges ruled the sentence was too lenient.
The announcement of the new fund is intended to halt further legal proceedings by private patients and account for any new claims made before October 2018.
More than 500 of Paterson's private patients had been due to take their case to the High Court next month.
During the trial it emerged that Paterson, who treated thousands of patients during his career, exaggerated or invented cancer risks and claimed payments for more expensive procedures.
He also carried out hundreds of unnecessary operations on NHS patients.
The NHS has so far paid more than £17 million in compensation and costs for victims.
Figures from NHS Resolution show that as of July 31, it had received 277 claims involving Paterson's NHS practice and paid a total of £17,411,639 on those cases.
The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust was also part of the civil action after accusations it failed to notify Spire of Paterson's questionable and dangerous practices, discovered years earlier.
Paterson's trial heard from nine women and one man who were treated in the private sector at Little Aston and Parkway Hospitals in the West Midlands between 1997 and 2011.
Victims said Paterson's crimes had left them in constant pain and hundreds said they no longer trusted doctors.
A lawyer representing 500 of Paterson's victims has criticised Spire for its "delaying tactics" in paying out compensation.
Simon Gordon, interim chief executive at Spire, said the process had been delayed by the criminal trial but Tom Jones, head of policy at Thompsons Solicitors, insisted this was not the case.
He praised the NHS for taking swift action to pay compensation and accused Spire of dragging the process out.
He told the Press Association: "The big thing is that Spire and other private healthcare providers need to operate on the same basis as the NHS, but at the moment they don't. They have dragged it out enormously.
"The NHS suspended [Paterson] and launched an immediate investigation. That produced a report and they have paid out all the NHS claims to the victims.
"Spire didn't do a report for a very long time. They have delayed paying out and they have delayed accepting liability.
"They have effectively dragged the whole thing out using the criminal proceedings as an excuse for the delay.
"Frankly, whether he had been convicted or not, they knew he had been carrying out these operations on their premises, and they knew they had been promoting him as someone who was available at their hospital.
"But when things went wrong they have delayed, they have prevaricated and they have found reasons not to accept responsibility."
He continued: "With both the promotion of private healthcare and the creeping privatisation of the NHS, we can't have a system where hospitals aren't operating under the same rules.
"One would hope that as a result of this there will be some recognition of that. There must be quick investigation and admitting responsibility and not fighting and dragging things out along the way."
Mr Jones said the plans for the compensation fund would go before a High Court judge in October and that victims should start receiving payouts within a matter of months, if not weeks.
Mr Gordon said on Thursday: "Earlier this year a criminal court decided that Ian Paterson must bear responsibility for his actions, finding him guilty of assaulting a number of his patients.
"He behaved with clear criminal intent and abused the trust of those who looked to him for his care and relied upon his expertise.
"However, whilst nothing diminishes Mr Paterson's responsibility for his actions, these events took place in our hospitals, and this should not have happened.
"We accept that better clinical governance in the private hospitals where Mr Paterson practised, as well as in his NHS trust, might have led to action being taken sooner, and it is right that we have made a material contribution to the settlement announced today.
"We have apologised unreservedly to Mr Paterson's patients for their suffering and distress and we would like to repeat that apology.
"As soon as the criminal trial ended we were able to start liaising with claimants' lawyers to broker a settlement involving all defendants. This has resulted in the agreement announced today."