Northern Ireland news

Major patient recall planned over Craigavon urology consultant's work

Concerns about a consultant urologist's work at Craigavon Area Hospital have been investigated since his retirement in June. Picture Mal McCann.
Seanín Graham

A MAJOR patient recall is being planned at an embattled Northern Ireland health trust after concerns were raised about a consultant's work.

The Irish News has learned a high-level Southern trust investigation began this summer into the care of urology patients at Craigavon Area Hospital.

The consultant urologist at the centre of the probe retired in June but worked at the hospital for a significant period.

Sources say hundreds of patients may be recalled with a helpline "ready to go".

A trust spokeswoman last night confirmed the investigation is taking place due to "clinical concerns" about the senior medic's work.

She was unable to comment on the recall but said a "small number" of patients had already been contacted and that Department of Health officials are receiving updates on the "potential impact" on other cases.

A telephone number was also issued for anyone affected.

The development comes a month after health minister Robin Swann ordered the highest level health service probe into the trust after a coronavirus outbreak on a haematology ward in Craigavon was linked to the deaths of six patients.

A further six patients died at Daisy Hill hospital in Newry, which is also managed by the trust, after a Covid cluster was discovered.

Mr Swann is expected to make an announcement in coming days on the urology recall and investigation, which is reported to be "comprehensive" but not yet concluded.

Experts from England are providing advice due to shortages in the medical speciality across the north, a crisis compounded by the pandemic and workforce shortages.

Urology has extensive waiting lists and covers the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the kidneys, ureters, bladder, prostate and reproductive organs.

Suspected prostate and kidney cancer patients are among those referred by their GP to a consultant urologist.

The emergence of the review coincides with a period of unprecedented challenges for the north's health system, with hundreds of staff redeployed and surgeries cancelled due to the second Covid wave and spiralling hospital admissions.

It also comes more than two years after the north's biggest ever patient recall, when almost 3,000 neurology patients were reassessed in the Belfast trust due to fears they were misdiagnosed or given the wrong drug treatments by Dr Michael Watt.

It is understood Southern trust management acted swiftly in June and issued an "early alert" to the department.

In a statement, the spokeswoman said: "We can confirm that clinical concerns in relation to the work of a consultant urologist, who no longer works in the health service, are currently being reviewed.

"At this stage, a small number of patients have been contacted so that their care can be reviewed.

"The Department of Health is being kept updated on the progress of the review and the potential impact on patients. If anyone is concerned and would like information please phone us on 0800 4148520 between 10am and 3pm."

Meanwhile, a department spokesman confirmed it is "being kept apprised" by trust officials on the review's "emerging findings".

"The minister plans to make a statement to the Assembly very shortly," he added.

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