A “dysfunctional” healthcare system allowed a rogue breast surgeon to perform botched and unnecessary operations on hundreds of women, a report has found.

An independent inquiry into Ian Paterson’s malpractice has recommended the recall of his 11,000 patients for their surgery to be assessed. Glasgow-born Paterson is currently serving a 20-year jail term for 17 counts of wounding with intent.

One of Paterson’s colleagues has been referred to police and five more to health watchdogs by the inquiry. Inquiry chairman the Rt Rev Graham James said patients were “let down over many years” by the NHS and independent providers, and there was “a culture of avoidance and denial”.

The retired bishop said patients were let down by the healthcare system “at every level”, who identified “multiple individual and organisational failures”.

He told how there were “missed opportunities” to stop Paterson, describing the failure to suspend him in 2003, when an NHS colleague first raised concerns, as “inexplicable”.

“It is the story of a healthcare system which proved itself dysfunctional at almost every level when it came to keeping patients safe,” he added.

The Paterson Inquiry, which was launched in May 2018, published 15 recommendations yesterday after hearing more than 177 first-hand accounts from his former patients.

Among the recommendations made yesterday it urged the NHS trust that employed Paterson and private health firm Spire Healthcare to check that all of more than 11,000 patients he treated had been recalled.

The Government should introduce reforms, including regulation of insurance protection for patients as a “nationwide safety net”, the report said.

It also called for the creation of an “accessible and intelligible” single repository of consultants’ key performance data, as a one-stop shop for patients.

Presenting the 232-page report, Mr James praised the victims who campaigned for an inquiry and for their courage in giving often “harrowing” accounts.

He added that many of more than 100 corporate witnesses who gave evidence were part of a system that “should have kept patients safe, but failed to do so”.

He said there was “wilful blindness” to what Paterson was doing. “Some could have known, some should have known – and a few must have known,” he said. Paterson worked with cancer patients at NHS and private hospitals in the West Midlands over 14 years.

His unregulated “cleavage-sparing” mastectomies, in which breast tissue was left behind, meant the disease returned in many of his patients.

Others had surgery they did not need – some even finding out years later they did not have cancer.

Paterson began working at Spire private hospital in Solihull in 1997 and was appointed at Solihull Hospital, part of the Heart of England NHS Trust, a year later.

Between then and 2011, he had 11,000 patients across the two sites.

He was suspended in 2012 while his practices were being investigated but an independent report by lawyer Sir Ian Kennedy found concerns about Paterson had been raised as early as 2003.

Debbie Douglas, who underwent “needless” surgery while in Paterson’s care, said all of the report’s 15 recommendations must be implemented. Mrs Douglas provided her first-hand account to the inquiry and pointed to NHS figures showing that of Paterson’s 1,206 mastectomy patients, 675 had died by 2017.

She added: “If you look at the stats alone, if you were a Paterson patient you were 50 per cent more likely to get a recurrence of breast cancer because you’ve been left with breast tissue, basically a time bomb, in your chest, ready to explode and ready to give you cancer because he didn’t remove it.”

The coroner and West Midlands Police are looking into the deaths of 23 of Paterson’s patients. Relatives of some of Paterson’s patients who died have called for him to face manslaughter charges.

A statement issued on behalf of Paterson, through his lawyers, said he had written to the inquiry and “answered all questions put to him”. The statement said he “maintains his innocence of all of the criminal charges of which he was convicted and is actively working on an appeal”.