Doctor says patients died as shortage of doctors led to longer waiting times

Health minister says coroner may need to examine circumstances of up to five deaths

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s Minister  of Health: told the Northern Assembly  yesterday that  the coroner may need to look into the cases. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

Edwin Poots, Northern Ireland’s Minister of Health: told the Northern Assembly yesterday that the coroner may need to look into the cases. Photograph: Kate Geraghty

Wed, Feb 12, 2014, 01:44


Patients have died in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital while waiting for treatment, it has been claimed, with shortages of doctors being a significant factor. The claim has been made by Dr Tony Stevens, medical director of Belfast Health Trust, in a BBC Northern Ireland report broadcast last night.

In response, Stormont minister of health Edwin Poots told the Assembly the coroner may need to look into the cases while SDLP health spokesman Fearghal McKinney called for an inquiry.

Dr Stevens told Radio Ulster yesterday: “These were very sick patients and they were very complex cases, so those patients may have succumbed or died anyway; this is a contributory factor.

“This is something we’re not happy about, that their care could have been better and their outcome might have been different,” he added. “I need to reassure the public you cannot assume that five patients came into our hospital and, for want of waiting longer than we would want to, they died.”

He admitted that health services were struggling.

“All these cases are serious adverse incidents. They are reported up to the Health and Social Care Board, they are all fully investigated and part of our policy is to inform the families, so it is my assumption that all the families are fully aware of this.”

The Patient Client Council and the Royal College of Nursing have asked for more information about the cases.