Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Shortage led to cancer delays

The trust at the centre of a major health scare has come under fire for its failure to tackle staffing levels that could have stopped patients getting late cancer diagnoses.

A probe into services at the dental hospital at the Royal has made a damning assessment of efforts by the Belfast Trust to secure funding for an additional oral medicine consultant.

It has emerged consultant numbers at the dental hospital plunged by half from 20 to 10 over a seven-year period between 2003 and 2010.

The report said: "It was clear there was a need for appointment of a second oral medicine consultant but a request in 2007/08 for same was apparently rejected primarily on funding grounds as not falling within the priority categories established at that time."

A spokesman from the Belfast Trust last night said he could not provide details on who made the decision to refuse funding for the post, which attracts an annual salary of between £75,000 and £105,000.

He also said he could not explain why more was not done to secure the necessary funding.

However, he confirmed a second oral medicine consultant is to commence employment with the trust in September.

While Health Minister Edwin Poots released details of the review to the Assembly last week, the full report has not yet been published. He issued the executive summary yesterday, but has not released the recommendations made by the inquiry panel.

Deputy chair of the Stormont health committee Jim Wells said: "Someone made the decision to refuse the funding which could have helped to alleviate the issues at the hospital.

"I think some sort of disciplinary action should be taken. It is difficult to comment given that we have not seen the recommendations but it does beg the question of what you have to do before losing your job when you work in the health service?

"If something like this happened in the private sector the person or people responsible would have had their P45 a long time ago."

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