NI minister orders inquiry into ‘serious concerns’ about urologist’s work

Records of 1,159 patients reviewed, 271 patients or their families contacted by health trust

Northern Ireland Health of Minister Robin Swann said the concerns about clinical practice of the urologist were ‘of the gravest concern’. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye/PA Wire

Northern Ireland Health of Minister Robin Swann said the concerns about clinical practice of the urologist were ‘of the gravest concern’. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye/PA Wire

 

The North’s Minister of Health Robin Swann has ordered a statutory public inquiry in relation to “serious concerns” about the work of a consultant urologist who worked in the Southern Health Trust in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann told Northern Assembly members that the inquiry relates to urologist Aidan O’Brien who retired earlier this year.

Mr Swann also informed the Assembly that he has elevated an independent inquiry into consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt into a statutory public inquiry.

In relation to the urologist, Mr O’Brien, Mr Swann said that to date 1,159 patients’ records have been reviewed and 271 patients or their families have been contacted by the Southern Trust.

“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,” said Mr Swann.

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

Mr Swann also pointed out that Mr O’Brien had a “significant amount of private practice” and he was concerned about these additional patients.

“In relation to his private patients who are not known to the Southern Trust I have requested that his solicitors outline how Mr O’Brien intends to provide a similar independent process to ensure that those private patients are alerted to issues arising and that their immediate healthcare needs are being met,” he told MLAs.

“Whilst the department has no explicit duty to take this particular matter forward, as part of our wider healthcare responsibilities, I want to do all I can to safeguard patients who may have received care or treatment in a private capacity from this consultant,” he added.

Impact

Mr Swann said the concerns about clinical practice of the urologist were “of the gravest concern”.

“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,” he said.

He added, “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.”

Mr Swann also announced a statutory review into the work of consultant neurologist Dr Michael Watt. More than 3,200 of his patients were recalled for further examination in 2018 following concerns about his work.

An independent review was being carried out into Dr Watt’s practice by Brett Lockhart, QC but this has now been promoted to a full statutory inquiry.

This was to enable the inquiry panel team to complete its work with “unfettered access to all relevant information”, said Mr Swann.