Paterson was convicted of 17 counts of wounding with intent and three counts of unlawful wounding against 10 patients in April.

Paterson, 59, worked at hospitals run by the Heart of England NHS Trust and Spire Healthcare from 1993 to 2012. More than 700 patients underwent extensive, life-changing operations for no medically justifiable reason.

The motive for these unnecessary surgeries remains unknown.

Sentencing the surgeon of Altrincham, Greater Manchester, at Nottingham Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Jeremy Baker said: "You deliberately played upon their worst fears, either by inventing or deliberately exaggerating the risk that they would develop cancer, and thereby gained their trust and confidence to consent to the surgical procedures which you carried out upon them."

Paterson's seven-week trial heard the traumatic stories of ten of his victims – nine women and one man – on whom Paterson performed invasive breast surgery on women with suspected breast cancer when a simple biopsy would have been sufficient. He performed lumpectomies and lymph node removal when it was not needed on vulnerable patients.

Complaints about Paterson had been made for years but went ignored by managers at the trust.

Emma Doughty, a specialist medical negligence lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which represents just under 100 of Paterson’s victims, said: “Our clients are relieved that the man who preyed on their vulnerability and cruelly put them through so much physical and emotional pain is where he deserves to be – behind bars. Paterson abused his position of power to put his patients, who he was supposed to help and protect, through a horrific ordeal. I hope today’s sentence will give our clients some solace and help them move on with their lives.”

Paterson was handed 15 years for each count of wounding with intent, and four years for each count of unlawful wounding, all to run concurrently.