A public inquiry has been ordered in relation to serious concerns about the clinical practice of a hospital consultant.
Urologist Dr Aidan O’Brien retired from the Southern Health Trust earlier this year.
The trust notified the Department of Health of concerns on July 31.
Health Minister Robin Swann told the Assembly that, to date, 1,159 patients’ records have initially been reviewed and 271 patients or families have 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 have come to harm.
Health Minister Robin Swann has ordered a statutory public inquiry in relation to serious concerns about the clinical practice of a hospital consultant.https://t.co/mOoU0UwIpD pic.twitter.com/cyIeezUOcq— Department of Health (@healthdpt) November 24, 2020
Mr Swann said the concerns about clinical practice of the consultant urologist are “of the gravest concern”.
“As Health Minister I want to firstly unreservedly apologise to these patients and their families for any upset and distress this has caused,” he said.
“I would also wish to reassure them that I will endeavour to ensure that they obtain appropriate treatment, support and the care they need over the coming weeks and months.”
Health committee chairman Colm Gildernew responded to Mr Swann’s statement in the Assembly, describing it as “very concerning”.
“I welcome the fact that a public inquiry has been called into this issue,” he said.
DUP MLA Jonathan Buckley said the statement will “cause a lot of concern” for patients across the Southern Trust.
Welcoming the announcement of a public inquiry, he also called for Dr O’Brien’s career at the trust to be examined and inquired whether the minister anticipates any further disciplinary proceedings or police actions.
Mr Swann said those involved in the investigation will look “as far back as is necessary”.
“In regards to the outworkings of this inquiry in regards to Mr O’Brien, that will be for the outworkings of the Royal College and also the inquiry itself, it’s not for me to pre-determine that,” he said.
Mr Swann also announced an independent inquiry panel will be set up in relation to the recall of neurology patients in the Belfast Trust.
He said this is to enable the inquiry panel team to complete its work with “unfettered access to all relevant information”, he stated.
Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said such incidents “constitute a serious breach of public trust in our health service”.
“That is why a public inquiry is the right move, and why one is also long overdue into neurology,” she said.
“The question many people will have is whether this sort of failure may still be occurring in the Southern or any other trusts.
“While it is important to look back, it is also essential to determine what is happening currently. Public inquiries are only one route to achieving this.
“What is also required is swifter implementation of transformation, including improved processes of identifying, reporting and dealing with alleged malpractice.”
In his weekly media briefing, chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride expressed concern.
“Obviously it’s another very sad day and I don’t want to pre-empt the outcome of the ongoing investigations, but any time that we’ve let down the public that we serve is a time when we all should rightly hang our heads in shame,” he said.