08/06/2018

Terms Of Reference Published For Neurology Inquiry

The Department of Health has published the terms of reference for the independent inquiry into the recall of over 2,500 neurology patients.

In May, the Belfast Health Trust recalled thousands of patients following an examination of the work of neurology consultant Dr Michael Watt.

Welcoming the publication of the Terms of Reference, SDLP Deputy Leader Nichola Mallon said it is more important to have "openness and transparency: about what exactly happened and what changes are required "to prevent the possibility of this happening again".

"It is right that the Inquiry focuses on the communication and reporting processes for complaints and concerns from November 2016 to May 2018 both within and between those with statutory responsibility for health care but we need confirmation as to whether the private sector will be also included. The same point goes for the review into the handling of complaints and concerns prior to November 2016. Will the private sector be included?
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"It is also not clear from the Department of Health press release how robustly the Inquiry will examine the governance arrangements and checks and balances around the work of Dr Watt in both his NHS and private practice predating November 2016. Nor is there any clarity on whether the Inquiry will investigate the impact and movement of patients by Dr Watt between his private and NHS practice.

"There is also no detail as yet on how patients will have their voices heard and how their vital knowledge and experiences will be taken into account. There is mounting frustration and anger among patients that no one is talking to them or listening to them. The Inquiry must provide the space and confidence for them to be heard."

Concluding, Ms Mallon said she has written to the Department for Health asking for clarity on all of these issues.

"All roads leading to this horrendous situation need openly and robustly examined by this Inquiry if patient and public confidence and trust in our health service is to be restored".

Sinn Féin MLA, Pat Sheehan, added he has "a number of questions" for the Department of Health about the terms of reference for the independent inquiry panel.

"The panel must have full access to all evidence it requires particularly after the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust deliberately withheld information from Justice O'Hara's investigation into the Hyponatraemia scandal," he said.

"Sinn Féin wants a guarantee that the evidence collected and the panel's final report will be made public.

"I will be meeting the Department of Health next week to put my concerns to them directly.

"The scale of this scandal is unprecedented and the least those affected deserve is a panel that can get to the truth."

(LM/MH)

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