The Chair of the Urology Services Inquiry, which was established to review the Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s handling of complaints or concerns relating to urology services prior to May 2020, has written to affected families and is calling on anyone who considers that they have been impacted to complete a questionnaire or to contact the Inquiry directly.
Christine Smith QC, who was the first woman to be appointed as Chair of a public inquiry in Northern Ireland, has said that the Inquiry has commenced its investigations.
In a written statement to update those most affected by the work of the Urology Services Inquiry, Christine Smith QC said that she has determined that there are to be three core participants who could assist the Inquiry, by being actively involved in proceedings, including the Department of Health, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and Mr. Aidan O’Brien. She confirmed that they have consented to this designation, with their legal teams having been appointed to engage with the Inquiry team.
She has also confirmed that each core participant has received detailed notices requiring them to supply information to the Urology Services Inquiry. Her team has received a substantial quantity of material which requires examination and full consideration.
With the quantity of material currently to be examined there is no specified date by which the Inquiry will start to hear from witnesses, but it is the intention of Christine Smith QC to hear from patients and families first with a target date for hearings of spring 2022.
Commenting on the work of the Inquiry Christine Smith QC said, “While most of our work relates to issues about governance, I have been acutely aware that at the heart of the matters we need to examine, are those patients and families who have been affected by what occurred in the urology department of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust. So, having obtained the details of those families whose cases resulted in the setting up of this Inquiry, I wrote to each personally to explain how we were going about our work and inviting them to engage with the Inquiry.
“At the end of our work, the report to the Minister will have to make recommendations about things that we hope will make a difference to improving patient safety. To achieve this objective, and in order to make meaningful recommendations, it will be important that the Inquiry hears from as many patients and/or families affected as possible. It is with this in mind that I would urge anyone who considers that they have been affected to access the Inquiry’s website, read my letter and complete the questionnaire to tell the Inquiry about their experiences or to contact us directly.
“Following the gathering of this information, we may wish to hear from some patients and/or families in person, and if so, we will invite them to a hearing at the Inquiry. I recognise that engagement with the Inquiry may be distressing for some and I want to reassure those that feel
able to help us with our work, that we will treat them and their family sensitively throughout the process.”
Notes to Editors
- The letter that Chair Christine Smith QC sent to those families, whose cases resulted in the setting up of this Inquiry, the questionnaire which can be used by any patient or family member affected, or indeed by anyone who has information to share with the Inquiry and all other contact details are available on the website at www.urologyservicesinquiry.org.uk
- The questionnaire can be downloaded, or if people prefer the Inquiry team can send it out in the post or by email. A copy can also be accessed by telephoning: 02890 251005 and giving the team a name and address.
- It is not compulsory for anyone to tell the Inquiry about what has happened to them or their loved one, and it will not compel anyone who would prefer not to do so.
- Those participating do not need a lawyer to engage with the Inquiry, but they are free to consult their own legal representative should they wish to do so. For anyone that feels that they require help in filling out the questionnaire or to make a statement and cannot afford a lawyer, then the Inquiry will make it possible for the patient or family’s lawyer to apply to the Inquiry to seek an award to help pay for that assistance.
- The inquiry will not broadcast those hearings relating to patients or allow patient or family names or private details to be made public.
- Any material that is published on the Inquiry website will be anonymised and redacted to ensure that people cannot be identified, unless they consent to the Inquiry team identifying them. There will be a limited need to disclose some personal details to those that the Chair has decided will be core participants in the Inquiry.
- Any material that the Inquiry receives from patients and/or families or other bodies will be treated confidentially by the Inquiry, and it ensures that anyone outside the Inquiry who needs to see material, for example, medical records, gives an undertaking to treat it confidentially.
- The Chair Christine Smith QC will continue to update the website when she is in a position to share information about the Inquiry’s work.
- In the coming weeks the Inquiry team will move into its office premises at 1 Bradford Court, Belfast.
- For Media queries contact Shane Finnegan firstname.lastname@example.org or 07764534565.