Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw has said there are serious questions to answer in the Health Minister’s failure to grant full powers of public inquiry to the ongoing Independent Neurology Inquiry.
The South Belfast MLA stated: “It was made clear at the outset of the Independent Neurology Inquiry, chaired by Brett Lockhart QC, that it was of an inquisitorial nature rather than having full public inquiry status only because there was no Minister to convert it. It was also in an open forum that full public inquiry powers, including full rights to retrieval of information and compulsion of witnesses, would be optimum.
“Therefore, now that we have a Minister, his refusal to switch the inquiry to give it full public inquiry powers will cause serious disquiet among those who have suffered through the failings in the neurology system, and suggests Stormont has learned nothing from the RHI debacle, when again it initially refused a public inquiry.
“Patients, their families, and indeed the public in general, who are all users and potential users of the Health Service deserve to know precisely what went on before the biggest ever patient recall in Northern Ireland, and whether appropriate action was taken by those in authority to stop so many recalls being necessary. The public has a fundamental right to the fullest possible investigation to ensure that detailed learning points inform future services and there can be no repeat. By not ensuring that this is the fullest possible investigation, the public will rightly be left wondering why it was not, and what issues may not have been covered in full.
“In the event of any scandal, the public has a right to know. That this is a fundamental matter of public health only reinforces that point. Especially in the light of RHI, the Minister must immediately provide direction to switch this inquiry from inquisitorial to public so that we can all have full faith in the outcome.”
AQW 1671/17-22: To ask the Minister of Health whether he plans to convert the Independent Neurology Inquiry into a full public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.
Response: The Independent Neurology Inquiry was established by the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health in May 2018 as a non-statutory inquiry. Its work forms part of a series of actions in response to the recall of neurology patients by the Belfast Trust. The Inquiry is independent of all other organisations. I have met with the Inquiry Panel and am assured that they have made significant progress. They are at a critical stage in the delivery of their Terms of Reference and on this basis I have no plans to change their status.