Belfast Telegraph

Duty of candour needed for medical profession: SDLP

By Andrew Madden

Revelations which have led to the recall of 2,500 neurology patients in Northern Ireland highlight the need for a duty of candour for medical professionals, according to a Belfast City councillor.

SDLP group leader at Belfast City Council Tim Attwood brought a motion before the council last month calling on such legislation to be introduced following January's damning report into hyponatraemia-related deaths here.

A 14-year inquiry was set up in 2004 to investigate the deaths of five children. The chairman of the inquiry said that the deaths of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson were the result of "negligent care" and the report was heavily critical of the "self-regulating and unmonitored" health service.

At April's council meeting, in which Mr Attwood's motion was passed, Raychel Ferguson's mother Marie spoke to councillors about the pain she endured over her family's ordeal and urged doctors to "tell the truth when things go wrong".

At last night's meeting, Mr Attwood said the latest revelations surrounding neurology consultant Dr Michael Watt at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust highlights the need for legislation on a duty of candour. Around 2,500 neurology patients here are being recalled for a case review amid fears some patients may have been diagnosed.

"The families are demanding that legislation is introduced to establish a new statutory duty of candour that would compel health care organisations to be open and honest and impose criminal liability on anyone in breach of the duty," Mr Attwood said following the meeting.

"Tragically the urgent need for a statutory duty of candour has been highlighted further by the latest revelation about the review of neurological patients who may have been misdiagnosed.

"At the same time, families are calling for a similar law of candour in the South following the appalling cervical smear test scandal, which has revealed that up to 15 women may have died without knowing they had delayed diagnosis."

Last week, it emerged that more 200 women in the Republic developed cervical cancer after having a misdiagnosed smear test in the free national screening programme.

The Health Service Executive has since admitted that up to 17 women affected by the CervicalCheck controversy have died.

Belfast Telegraph

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