Retired surgeon Dr Aidan O’Brien to ‘engage’ with Public Inquiry into Urology Department in Southern Health Trust

A surgeon at the centre of an inquiry into the Urology Department in the Southern Health Trust is to ‘engage’ with the inquiry

Dr Aidan O’Brien is one of three core participants to the Urology Services Inquiry which was set up following ‘serious concerns’ about the care of patients.

The Southern Health Trust, where Dr O’Brien worked for most of his career until his retirement last year ,and the Department of Health are also named as ‘core participants’ to the Inquiry.

Christine Smith QC, Chair of Inquiry said: “Each has consented to this designation and has appointed legal teams to engage with the Inquiry.”

Mr Aidan O'Brien, consultant surgeon. INPT51-230. JPI Media

Health Minister Robin Swann ordered the inquiry last November.

Ms Smith said: “Most of our work relates to issues about governance, but I have been acutely aware that at the heart of the matters we need to examine, are those patients and families who have been affected by what occurred in the urology department of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

“Once we obtained the details of those families whose cases resulted in the setting up of this Inquiry, I wrote to each personally to explain how we were going about our work and inviting them to engage with the Inquiry” said Ms Smith.

She said a version of this letter on the website with a questionnaire which can be used by any patient or family member affected, or anyone who has information to share with the Inquiry.

Christine Smith, Chair of the Urology Services Inquiry. Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 16th September 2021 Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“ Anyone who does engage with us will be treated sensitively by the entire Inquiry team.

“I do not consider that the patients or families require to be legally represented before the Inquiry. I am willing, however, to consider any application for legal assistance by patients and families for help in filling in the questionnaire, or making a statement to the Inquiry.

“The costs protocol sets out how lawyers can apply to the Inquiry for an award. I will consider each application received, mindful of my duty to be fair and to have regard to the cost to the public purse.”

Ms Smith said: “ I do not envisage that I will designate any other individual or body as a core participant or as an enhanced participatory witness, but I remain open to making such designations if I consider it would be fair and proportionate to do so.

“Each core participant has received detailed notices requiring them to supply information to the Inquiry.

“We have already received a substantial quantity of material which requires examination and full consideration by the Inquiry team.

“This is likely to take some time, and indeed is likely to continue for the duration of our work.

“For that reason I cannot say exactly when the Inquiry will start to hear from witnesses.

“It is my intention to hear from the patients and families first and I hope that that will happen in spring next year. Ideally we would like to hear from those we ask to speak to us in person, but the constraints of the current pandemic mean that we may have to make other arrangements,” said Ms Smith.

If you would like more information, check out the Iquiry website www.urologyservicesinquiry.org.uk/

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