Statement by Christine Smith QC, Chair of the Urology Services Inquiry

I am honoured to have been asked by Minister Swann to Chair the Urology Services Inquiry and to be the first woman to Chair a public Inquiry in Northern Ireland. I am delighted to be able to work with Dr Sonia Swart as the Inquiry Panel Member and Mr Damian Hanbury as the expert Urology Assessor.

Since Minister Swann announced my appointment in March, work has been ongoing to appoint the Inquiry team, find suitable premises and to settle the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry.

Now that the Inquiry Terms of Reference and commencement date have been announced, I would like to comment publicly about our work.

I am acutely conscious that while the Inquiry is tasked with looking at issues of systems and governance, there are a number of former patients of Mr O’Brien and their families who have been impacted by the care that they received and who are deeply interested in the Inquiry’s work.

The Inquiry will, in accordance with paragraph (d) of the Terms of Reference, give those who wish to engage with it the opportunity to report their experiences. It will not be compulsory for any former patient or their families to engage with the Inquiry and many may prefer not to do so. The Inquiry wishes to hear from all those who do want to have their voices heard and processes will be devised to allow that to happen. I recognise that this will be a distressing time for some, particularly patients and families that have been impacted, and I wish to assure anyone who engages with our work that we will treat everyone sensitively.

The clinical practice of Mr O’Brien is being investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC) and this Inquiry will not encroach on the remit of the GMC in this regard. We will work within the published Terms of Reference for our work.

I want to stress that the Inquiry is an independent body and the matters that it is tasked to consider will be investigated thoroughly and impartially by myself and the entire Inquiry team.

I am sure that all who are affected by the decision to set up the Inquiry are anxious to see it start its work. While preparatory work has been ongoing there are still things to be achieved before any public hearings of the Inquiry can begin. The Inquiry will make every effort to put processes in place and to carry out our investigations quickly and thoroughly so that we can begin to hear from witnesses as soon as possible.

In keeping with other public inquiries conducted in Northern Ireland in recent years, I am determined that our work will be transparent and open.

As the Inquiry develops, I will provide updates on the dedicated website which will go live from today.

Notes to Editors

  1. The Urology Services Inquiry (USI) is Chaired by Christine Smith QC, Dr Sonia Swart is the Panel member and Mr Damian Hanbury is the Assessor.
  2. The Inquiry’s website is
  3. The Urology Services Inquiry (USI) Terms of Reference are available on the website (as above).
  4. The USI Terms of Reference define the remit of the Inquiry, which has a focus on systems and governance.
  5. The USI is not responsible for the lookback review or any recall of urology patients, which is the responsibility of the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, overseen by the Urology Assurance Group and the Health and Social Care Board. The Urology Recall Patient Helpline number is 0800 414 8520, available between 10am and 3pm Monday to Friday.
  6. For Media queries contact Shane Finnegan or 07764534565.