A public inquiry has been launched over concerns about the work carried out by a urology consultant at Craigavon Area Hospital.
Health Minister Robin Swann said 1,000 patients’ records have been recalled at the Southern Health Trust.
The decision, announced in a statement to the Assembly, relates to the work of urology consultant Mr Aidan O’Brien who earlier this year retired from the Southern Trust.
The Health Minister has also informed MLAs that the independent inquiry panel set up in relation to the recall of neurology patients at Belfast Trust will be converted to a statutory public inquiry.
This is to enable the inquiry panel team to complete its work with “unfettered access to all relevant information”, he stated.
In relation to the concerns about the clinical practice of the Southern Trust urology consultant, Minister Swann told MLAs that to date 1,159 patients’ records have initially been reviewed and 271 patients or families have been contacted by the Trust. Work continues across areas of concern.
He said the concerns about clinical practice of the consultant urologist were “of the gravest concern”.
Concluding the Minister said: “The impact of these concerns will be felt most severely by patients and their families affected and unfortunately we are only at the start of what is likely to become a long and detailed investigation into this matter.
“As Health Minister I want to firstly unreservedly apologise to these patients and their families for any upset and distress this has caused.
“I would also wish to reassure them that I will endeavour to ensure that they obtain appropriate treatment, support and the care they need over the coming weeks and months.”
Upper Bann MP, Carla Lockhart commented: “This is a matter of grave concern. When attending consultations with medical professionals we take for granted that the clinical practice offered will be of the highest standard. Clearly in light of today’s announcement the Trust, and the Minister, has established serious concerns about patient safety.
“First and foremost in my thoughts today are those patients affected by this discovery. It will be a matter of upset and anxiety and I trust the Minister will ensure that they are offered the support they need at this distressing time.
The DUP representative added: “I commend the Minister for establishing this public inquiry and trust that it will be established and get to work soon. I furthermore implore him to look at the wider issue of clinical governance. Clearly as it stands it is not robust enough. That must change and I urge the Minister to set a major reform process underway so that we do not have further instances like this in the future.”