Urology Services Inquiry commences public hearings

The Urology Services Inquiry will commence its first public hearing on Tuesday 8th November, with the intention of holding sittings through to the end of 2023.

Chaired by Christine Smith KC, the Inquiry was established in March 2021 by the Minister for Health, Robin Swann to review the Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s handling of urology services prior to May 2020.

Having held hearings with patients and families, in private, in June and September to learn first-hand about their experiences with the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, the Inquiry team’s focus now shifts to public hearings with core participant witnesses.

The opening sessions will hear from Inquiry Counsel, Mr. Martin Wolfe KC who will deliver his opening statement, setting out the issues that the Inquiry’s work will consider and address. This will be followed on November 10th, by opening statements from the legal representatives of each core participant which includes the Department of Health, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and Mr. Aidan O’Brien with all public hearings being streamed live from the Inquiry’s website.

From Tuesday 15th November the Inquiry will start to hear from other non-patient and family witnesses, with the timetable for all sittings being published on the website, a week in advance.

Commenting on the opening of the public hearings, Christine Smith KC, Chair of the Inquiry said, “From the start of our work the Inquiry has been very conscious of the fact that it was due to issues concerning the care of patients that the Minister for Health announced this Inquiry in late 2020.  Patients and families, some of whom sadly lost their lives, are at the heart of the work that the Inquiry is undertaking and the Inquiry acknowledges their pain and suffering.

“It is for these reasons that we sought to commence our hearings from witnesses as soon as we could, and to hear from patients and families first to provide them with the opportunity to tell us about their experiences with the Trust and the impact that had on them.  I am very grateful to all those who attended our private hearings earlier this year and also to those who took the time to fill in questionnaires and provide us with important material.

“As our work enters a new phase with public hearings, it is important to emphasise this is not a trial.  While Mr. O’Brien’s clinical practice has been the catalyst for the Inquiry it is not the primary focus of our work, which relates to clinical and corporate governance within the Southern Health and Social Care Trust.  Throughout the duration of the Inquiry, we will seek to uncover all facts from which we will reach conclusions and make recommendations to the Minister.

“I would, once again, encourage anyone who wishes us to know about their experiences to contact us.  The inquiry will continue to hold private hearings, with patients and families, in the course of its work until we conclude the hearings process.”

Redacted transcripts of private hearings with patients and families which were held in private in June and September are published on the Inquiry website.  Transcripts of evidence and documents referred to within evidence will be placed on the website along with the response statements of the witnesses.


Notes to Editors:

  • The hearings will take place at the Inquiry’s hearing chamber in Bradford Court, Belfast.  You can find a link to the Inquiry timetable here. Core participants and witnesses have had the opportunity to view the Chamber.
  • The Inquiry Chamber has a small public gallery.  All public hearings will be streamed live from the Inquiry’s website to enable people who are interested in the work of the Inquiry to follow proceedings without the need to attend in person. You can access the link here.
  • Media can access live stream from the website.  There is also an overflow room available within Bradford Court with a screen and live feed which they can access, if required.
  • The media protocol can be found on the Inquiry website here.
  • The transcripts of private hearings with family members are available on the website, redacted where relevant to protect their identity
  • Transcripts of hearings will be made available on the website as soon as possible after the hearings taking place.
  • Anyone who wishes to inform the Inquiry of their experiences can do so by downloading a questionnaire from www.urologyservicesinquiry.org.uk.  A copy can also be accessed by telephoning: 02890 251141 and giving the team a name and address.

For media queries contact Shane Finnegan - shane@aikenpr.com or 07764534565.