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News / June 29, 2011

Belfast Health Trust let down mouth cancer patients

by Guy Hiscott

An independent inquiry has found the Trust guilty of ‘serious deficiencies’ after 15 mouth cancer patients received late diagnoses and referrals.

Speaking in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 28 June, Health Minister Edwin Poots said the Trust was guilty of an unacceptable failure and warned ‘it cannot happen again’.

The Minster commented: ‘The inquiry concluded that there were serious deficiencies in the quality of care provided by the oral medicine department of the Dental Hospital and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to the patients recalled for review, which may have impacted adversely on the health of some of them to a significant degree and certainly had the potential to do so.’

The independent inquiry into the oral medicine department of the Royal Dental Hospital found that 15 cancer patients received late diagnoses and referrals.

On this matter, Mr Poots said: ‘It is know that four of those 15 have died, possibly as a consequence of oral cancer. The extent of the impact that delay in diagnosis or referral had on the outcome… is unknown at this stage.’

Mr Poots apologised to the Assembly for what he described as the serious failings in patient care.

In response to the publication of the inquiry, Belfast Trust chief executive Colm Donaghy similarly apologised to dental patients.

Mr Donaghy said: ‘We always focused on doing right by patients in all our actions but we acknowledge that there were formal processes we did not follow and I am sorry to those people who were affected. I can however reassure the public that following our recall of more than 100 patients, we have not identified any additional cancers.’

Mr Donaghy said the Trust was committed to providing the best possible quality of care and would be looking in detail at all the inquiry recommendations, of which there are 45.