Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Health Trust must be open about shortcomings

Editor's Viewpoint

There is a continuing worry among many people in the aftermath of the announcement by the Belfast Health Trust on Tuesday that 2,500 people are being recalled in light of the concerns about the work of consultant Dr Michael Watt.

While it will take some time to deal with the cases of those who are recalled, there are questions which need answered in the short term.

This should be a priority if it can help to alleviate the concerns of even a small number of people.

We report the experience of some people, including Stephen Wallace, who had been seen by Dr Watt for more than a decade. He was not surprised that his patients had been called for review.

In an attempt to gain more information about what is happening, the Belfast Telegraph submitted eleven questions to the Belfast Trust, but we only received a short response which differs little from what they were saying 24 hours earlier.

The last thing which the public and the patients need at this difficult time is a wall of silence.

Many large organisations, including the NHS, close ranks when engulfed by a crisis which people within its ranks already think has been badly handled.

Sadly, the shortcomings in the local NHS on this subject have been mirrored by another shocking revelation that in England some 450,000 women aged between 68-71 did not receive a final routine screen for breast cancer. As a result, it is thought that up to 270 women may have died or had their lives shortened.

In the Irish Republic there was also distressing news that 208 women diagnosed with cervical cancer should have received earlier intervention treatment.

Seventeen women died and 162 were not notified of independent audit results. The Dublin Government has rightly agreed to an independent investigation into the failures in the State's screening programme.

Such scandals inevitably dominate the headlines and lessen some people's faith in the medical establishment, which is unfair to those health professionals who carry out such good work every day.

However, when things go wrong it is important for the health authorities to be transparent and reassuring. Certainly the Belfast Trust should make a better start by responding proactively to reasonable expressions of concern.

Belfast Telegraph

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