Northern Ireland news

Public inquiry into the work of urologist will also address concerns about his `abysmal' treatment by Southern Trust

Consultant Aidan O'Brien

A PUBLIC inquiry into the work of a consultant surgeon will also address concerns about his treatment by the Southern Trust, Health Minister Robin Swann has promised.

There has been an active online campaign in support of Aidan O'Brien, who was based at Craigavon Area Hospital for most of his career before retiring in June 2020.

Mr Swann told the Assembly's health committee the inquiry has now reviewed 1,906 patient records and identified 287 patients and families, with "nine initial adverse incidents".

The high-profile consultant, who also saw patients privately from his own clinic, was suspended from practising in the UK by a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in December after the inquiry was announced weeks earlier.

DUP Upper Bann assembly member Jonathan Buckley has queried whether a "public inquiry costing massive amounts of public money" is needed given "the issues surrounding Mr O'Brien's case focuses entirely on administrative issues rather than any clinical concerns or complaints".

"I don't believe we have been garnered with the full facts, including the point, and it's a crucial point that there were significant prior grievances initiated by Mr O'Brien against the Trust which have not been dealt with," he said.

"That was something that we as an Assembly had no prior sight of or even reference to in your (November) statement.

"When I talk to both medical professionals and patients I have not met one that can criticise Mr O'Brien's work, in fact quite the opposite - they believe that Mr O'Brien has been treated abysmally by the Trust and it's their actions that should actually be investigated, not a man who has given a lifetime of service."

He asked Mr Swann to give "further consideration" to including this in the public inquiry's terms of reference if he did not suspend the investigation.

Mr Buckley said this would ensure "we can gain a full picture of all that went on during Mr O'Brien's time with the Trust".

The minister said that would covered under the current framework.

"The point you make, Jonny, is one of the benefits of a public inquiry because all that will come out and another avenue of inquiry or investigation may not bring that out," he said.

"It may prove one way or the other whether those concerns actually stand as well.

"I have initiated a public inquiry and I'm intending to continue along that road."

A Southern Trust spokeswoman said: "This matter will be for the public inquiry. The Trust does not comment on current or former employees."

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