Cancer care deficiencies outlined
Concerns which led to 15 Northern Ireland cancer patients receiving late diagnoses should have been addressed sooner, the Health Minister has admitted.
Edwin Poots listed serious deficiencies in the quality of care provided by the Royal Dental Hospital and the Belfast Health Trust. Poor record-keeping and a failure to act quickly enough contributed to the problem.
The minister outlined details of an independent inquiry into the oral medicine service at the Assembly.
"The inquiry concluded that there were serious deficiencies in the quality of care provided by the oral medicine department of the Dental Hospital and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to the patients recalled for review, which may have impacted adversely on the health of some of them to a significant degree and certainly had the potential to do so," he said.
He added: "I do not doubt that during this time, a number of individuals in dealing with the complex situation believed that they were doing the right thing.
"The inquiry has, however, clearly found that there were serious failings in the care provided, communication and the timeliness and ultimately the effectiveness of the action taken."
Previous health minister Michael McGimpsey apologised for the failings, which emerged after the review of a consultant's work. Professor Philip Lamey has been removed from his post.
The trust has identified concerns over 22 patients, 15 of whom had cancer.
Alarm was first raised about the consultant's work in late 2009 when it emerged that six patients with oral cancer had potentially received a late diagnosis. At this stage the Belfast Trust decided to supervise the professor's work pending a review.
Subsequent investigations identified concerns with a total of 22 patients (15 of whom had oral cancer) and four have died, possibly because of oral cancer. It is not known whether the late diagnosis contributed to their deaths.