Inquests are to be held into the deaths of four former patients of a rogue breast surgeon who is serving a 20-year jail sentence.
Consultant Ian Paterson, who was employed by the Heart of England NHS foundation trust and also practised in the independent sector, was convicted in 2017 of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding.
He was jailed at Nottingham crown court for 15 years, and the court of appeal increased his sentence to a 20-year term.
A statement issued on behalf of the senior coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, Louise Hunt, and the area coroner, Emma Brown, said inquests into the deaths of four patients would open next Monday.
The statement said the coroners had been carrying out preliminary investigations under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 “to identify whether there is reason to suspect that any former patients of Mr Paterson have died an unnatural death as a result of any of the care they received.
“Following preliminary investigations, the senior and area coroner believe there is evidence to have reason to suspect that some of those deaths may be unnatural.
“In accordance with the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, inquests will now be opened in relation to four former patients of Mr Paterson.”
Preliminary investigations are also ongoing into the deaths of other patients of Paterson, 62, and it is anticipated that further inquests will be opened in due course.
West Midlands police asked Birmingham and Solihull coroners office to investigate a number of deaths of breast cancer patients Paterson had treated.
An independent inquiry which released its findings in February this year said Paterson was able to go on performing unnecessary operations for years under a dysfunctional healthcare system that failed patients.
The Paterson inquiry, launched in May 2018, published 15 recommendations after hearing 177 first-hand accounts from the surgeons patients.
Among the recommendations, 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 inquiry chairman, the Rt Rev Graham James, a former Bishop of Norwich, said the NHS and independent providers had let patients down over many years and there had been a culture of avoidance and denial.
He said there were missed opportunities to stop Paterson, and described the failure to suspend him in 2003, when an NHS colleague first raised concerns, as inexplicable.
Linda Millband, the national clinical negligence lead at Thompsons Solicitors who led the team taking legal action on behalf of 650 of Patersons former patients, said: “This is yet another twist in the terrible story of Ian Paterson. This has been a horrific tale from start to finish, and it seems as if, for the families, the nightmare is not over yet.
“It is absolutely essential that we get to the truth, so I welcome the coroners inquests into the deaths. My heart goes out to the families who are affected, and who now have to face yet more upheaval while they wait for answers.”