More patients may be contacted as Minister announces inquiry into consultant

More patients may be contacted by the Southern Health Trust as the NI Health Minister announces a public inquiry into a consultant urologist at Craigavon Area Hospital.

Health Minister Robin Swann ordered the inquiry in relation to serious concerns about the clinical practice of a hospital consultant Aidan O’Brien.

Mr O’Brien, who had worked at the hospital for decades, retired earlier this year from the Southern Health Trust.

Minister Swann told MLAs at the NI Assembly that to date 1,159 patients’ records have initially been reviewed and 271 patients or families have been contacted by the Trust.

Mr Aidan O'Brien, consultant urologist.

He expressed ‘the gravest concern’ about clinical practice of the consultant urologist.

Southern Trust Chief Executive Shane Devlin said they are continuing to review patient notes and it is likely more patients will be contacted to have their care assessed.

“The impact of these concerns will be felt most severely by patients and their families affected and unfortunately we are only at the start of what is likely to become a long and detailed investigation into this matter.

“As Health Minister I want to firstly unreservedly apologise to these patients and their families for any upset and distress this has caused.

“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.”

“So far, nine cases have been identified that meet the threshold for a serious adverse incident (SAI) review and all nine patients and/or their families have been contacted by the trust to inform them of the position in relation to their respective cases,” he said.

“A further six cases are currently being reviewed in more detail to establish if those patients have come to harm.

“This emerging situation within the Southern Trust causes me and my department the gravest of concerns. While I remain convinced that the experience of patients who use our health services is overwhelmingly that of a safe and quality service, these incidents regrettably dent the confidence of service users.

“I fully acknowledge this and I will do all that I can to ensure that lessons are learnt, to prevent situations such as these occurring again.”

A spokesperson for the Southern Health Trust which has responsibility for Craigavon Hospital said: “The Southern Trust welcomes the announcement today by the Health Minister of a Statutory Public Inquiry into the work of a single urology consultant who was based in Craigavon Area Hospital.”

Chief Executive, Mr Shane Devlin said: “The Minister’s statement demonstrates the high level of concern in relation to this issue which we share and are working hard to address. We have been working closely with the Department to date and we will be fully co-operating with the Inquiry process.

“To date 1159 patients’ records have been initially reviewed.  As a result  262 patients have been contacted along with additional 9 patients / families whose care is subject to independent Serious Adverse Incident reviews. Our staff have been working diligently to quickly identify patients whose care may be a cause for concern and we will continue to focus our efforts on doing our best for all our patients.

“Our Urology team based in Craigavon Area Hospital provide care for thousands of patients each year and the current review is focused on a small proportion of these cases. We have full confidence in our team and in the care they provide.

“I know that this maybe very worrying for patients and families who have received care within our Urology service and for that I sincerely apologise for the distress and concern this news will cause.

“We have already been in touch with patients/families who we have identified through our urgent review of cases, and invited those who we have clinical concerns about to come for a review appointment so we can be assured that their treatment is appropriate. We have been running extra clinics, and have also arranged for patients to have their care reviewed in the Independent Sector.

“As we continue to review patient notes, it is likely that further patients will be contacted and invited to have their care assessed.

“An information line has been set up 0800 4148520 between 10am and 5pm Monday to Friday or email [email protected] for anyone who is worried and seeking support.”

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said: “This is a matter of grave concern. When attending consultations with medical professionals we take for granted that the clinical practice offered will be of the highest standard. Clearly in light of today’s announcement the Trust, and the Minister, has established serious concerns about patient safety.

“First and foremost in my thoughts today are those patients affected by this discovery. It will be a matter of upset and anxiety and I trust the Minister will ensure that they are offered the support they need at this distressing time.

“I commend the Minister for establishing this public inquiry and trust that it will be established and get to work soon. I furthermore implore him to look at the wider issue of clinical governance. Clearly as it stands it is not robust enough. That must change and I urge the Minister to set a major reform process underway so that we do not have further instances like this in the future.”

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