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Chair appointed for public inquiry into Southern Trust urologist

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Inquiry: Christine Smith QC

Inquiry: Christine Smith QC

Inquiry: Christine Smith QC

Christine Smith QC has been appointed by Health Minister Robin Swann to head up a public inquiry into the work of a Southern Trust urologist.

It follows serious concerns about the clinical practice of Dr Aidan O’Brien who retired from the trust last year.

The trust notified the Department of Health of concerns last July, with Mr Swann saying they were "of the gravest concern".

In November, Mr Swann told the Assembly that 1,159 patients’ records had been reviewed and 271 patients or families had been contacted by the trust.

He said nine cases have so far been identified that meet the threshold for a serious adverse incident (SAI) review, while a further six cases are being reviewed in more detail to establish if those patients had come to harm.

The information came to light after the trust became aware of potential concerns regarding delays in the treatment of surgery patients who were under the care of Dr O'Brien on June 7.

As a result of the potential patient safety concerns, an initial look-back exercise in relation to the consultant’s work was conducted to ascertain whether there were other areas of potential concern.

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Ms Smith has previously acted as senior counsel to the inquiry into Historical Institutional Abuse and was also senior counsel for the Department of Finance in the inquiry into the Renewable Heat Scheme.

She is currently senior counsel to the public inquiry into the events leading to the recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Trust.

Mr Swann said he believed a public inquiry was "the best way to ensure that the full extent of the concerns is identified and for the patients and families affected to see that all relevant issues are pursued in a transparent and independent way".

He said that he hoped the inquiry would be fully underway by the summer.

“The next step will be to finalise the terms of reference for the inquiry, following engagement with the Assembly’s Health Committee and the patients affected by the lookback, and to finalise the members of the inquiry panel," the Health Minister said.

Mr Swann said he believed Ms Smith's "professional expertise and recent involvement with inquiries equips her to chair the Urology Inquiry".

The UUP MLA said she was a "very experienced Queen’s Counsel with a background in public inquiry work".

He also reiterated the unreserved apology to the patients and their families he issued in November.

“I wish to reassure them that I will endeavour to ensure that they obtain appropriate treatment and support and the care that they need," Mr Swann said.

Belfast Telegraph


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