Paul Goggins, the new Health Minister of Northern Ireland, expressing his apology over the cancer screening scandal at the Ulster's breast cancer center, has stated that women who had suffered distress and anxiety can claim compensation.
An alarming report had pointed out the delay in the cancer diagnosis of six women owing to substandard care of a consultant radiologist. 'The estimated increase in risk of dying from breast cancer attributable to the delay in diagnosis ranged from 2% to 10%,' read the report.
As a consequence of this delay, the women were at greater risk of dying from the disease. Furthermore, 19 patients were wrongly informed that they did not have cancer. On an average, the delay in the diagnosis of these patients ranged form 7 weeks to 27 months. If not for the concerns raised by the Trust staff regarding the 'clinical judgment and decision making' of the radiologist, this issue would not have been brought to spotlight.
Although the Health Department had raised concerns about Dr. Stephen Elliott, believed to have been paid extra cash for his locum work, nothing much was done. Unmindful of the service requirements, the Antrim Area Hospital Trust further continued to attenuate the clinic throughput to be in line with the consultant's work rate.
This issue one side, the senior managers were scolded for ignoring the risk associated with incompetence of the consultant radiologist. Owing to poor quality of the radiologist's work, nearly 7000 women have been informed that they might have to be reassessed.
Out of the 400 women who were called to present for a second mammogram, 19 were found to have breast cancer, which apparently was not picked up during initial screening.
The damning report states: 'The review panel are concerned that management at the most senior level within Antrim Area Hospital failed to recognize the significant risks being taken in continuing to provide breast screening services where there was an element of doubt about the competence of a consultant radiologist.'
'It would also appear that in directly approaching the identified consultant about undertaking this locum work, at an enhanced pay rate, management at Antrim Area Hospital failed to be open and transparent in offering locum work to other consultants who may have been interested in providing locum cover. Those affected may take some small consolation from the recommendations in this report, ' concluded the report, prepared by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority.