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Audiologist at centre of Republic of Ireland health scare worked in Northern Ireland

By Lisa Smyth

An audiologist at the centre of a major health scare in the Republic of Ireland has worked for the Belfast Trust, it can be revealed.

However, health officials will not say when the individual in question worked for them or how many patients were treated by the individual.

A spokeswoman for the trust said she could not provide the information as it would breach confidentiality.

The refusal by the trust to provide details about the period in which the audiology worked has been criticised by Paula Bradshaw, the Alliance Party's health spokeswoman.

She said: "I sincerely hope that the Belfast Trust is either already or planning to carry out an internal investigation with the utmost urgency.

"This must be worrying for the families of children who have attended the paediatric audiology service over the last few years and they have the right to expect answers. The requirement for rigorous clinical governance and supervision of performance applies right across health and social care.

"In this case of audiology with children, whose condition could deteriorate if not handled and treated appropriately, it is surely one that the Belfast Trust must ensure is an exemplar and regularly monitored."

In June, it emerged that 49 families in the Republic were to receive an apology for failings in audiology services provided to their children by one audiologist - the same person who has worked for the Belfast Trust.

They were found to have been affected after more than 900 cases were examined in a review.

Of those 49, 13 had been discharged from the service but were re-referred and were found to have suffered additional hearing loss.

A further 20 children were still active in the system, but were also found to have suffered additional hearing loss.

It was established that 16 other children with hearing aids received care that deviated significantly from national standards.

At the time, health officials in Ireland said the individual in question was an external provider.

While the Belfast Trust has said it will not reveal the period when the audiologist worked for the trust, it issued a statement which said: "We are aware of review of audiology services in ROI and the subsequent HSE report.

"This is a detailed report looking at concerns in a service delivered in another jurisdiction with different aspects to governance and operating standards to that of the service provided in the Belfast Trust.

"Taking that into consideration we have mapped the recommendations of the report against our own governance criteria and are assessing if there are implications for the service provided in Belfast.

"Given the rigour required in such exercises, this may take a little time to complete."

It is the latest controversy for the scandal-hit Belfast Health Trust.

At the end of last month, the trust apologised for failings in its care of patients at Muckamore Abbey.

It revealed that four members of staff were suspended after an adult safeguarding investigation was launched in September 2017 following reports of alleged physical abuse of patients.

The trust revealed that another nine employees were later relieved of their duties after a review of CCTV footage, and an expert panel was set up to independently review the standard of care in the facility.

The statement added: "This regrettable and unacceptable situation in no way reflects the work of our 500 dedicated and professional staff who provide excellent care every day to the 80 patients in Muckamore."

And a review of thousands of the trust's neurology patients continues to ensure no-one has come to harm under the care of Dr Michael Watt.

The trust was also heavily criticised earlier this year by the chair of the Hyponatraemia Inquiry.

He said that some staff had seemed more interested in protecting the organisation's reputation than learning from the deaths of children.

Belfast Telegraph

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