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Last Updated: Monday, 21 November 2005, 17:21 GMT
Thousands in cancer scan review
Breast screening
Thousands of cases are to be re-examined
More than 8,000 breast examinations carried out by a consultant radiologist at three NI hospitals are to be reviewed amid concerns about his work.

Checks are under way at Belfast City, Altnagelvin and Antrim Hospitals where the now suspended medic worked.

Antrim Hospital said 5,000 cases in which the consultant had had some involvement are to be reassessed.

Belfast City Hospital said 2,000 cases would be reviewed and Altnagelvin is to re-examine more than 1,000.

The consultant was employed at Altnagelvin until 2003. A review of hospital procedures and an investigation into his work have begun.

At a news conference on Monday, Health Minister Shaun Woodward and representatives of the three hospitals said they wanted to assure the public that the measures being taken were precautionary and the risk to patients of a mistake having been made was low.

The chief executive of the United Hospitals Group, which administers Antrim Hospital, confirmed the consultant was suspended after concerns about his clinical judgement were raised by a GP.

The Department of Health said the women were being recalled in the Northern Board area after hospital staff had raised concerns about the consultant's "clinical judgements".

The health minister held a news conference on Monday
The health minister held a news conference on Monday

It added: "The consultant will not be returning to duty, pending further review of his work."

The chief executive of Belfast City Hospital Trust, Quentin Coey, said he hoped the re-examination process could be completed as quickly as possible.

"We have decided, as a precautionary measure, to review each of the cases with which this radiologist has been involved since his appointment in November 2004," he said.

"We have identified 1,935 cases from our Symptomatic Breast Clinic to be included in the Review and an additional 240 cases assessed at the Breast Screening Centre in Linenhall Street, Belfast."

'Part of a team'

The Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry is to review several thousand cases in which the consultant was involved as part of his work there for two years until 2003.

However, chief executive Elaine Way said they were confident their system of team working would have prevented any problems.

The health minister has asked Dr Robin Wilson, director of Breast Screening Quality Assurance in the East Midlands, to lead an investigation into the consultant's work.

Any woman who is called back for the first time is going to be anxious because of the implications of what the call back means
Dr Robin Wilson
Breast Screening Quality Assurance

"My first concern is for the 44 women, and indeed other women, who might have been seen by this particular consultant and to put everything and anything in place," he said.

The health minister said it was possible that more women would be recalled.

However, Mr Woodward pointed out that although the consultant in question had worked alone at Antrim Area Hospital, he had worked as part of a team at the other hospitals.

Robin Wilson said he understood the concerns of any woman who had to undergo further tests.

"Any woman who is called back for the first time is going to be anxious because of the implications of what the call back means, and they are going to be doubly anxious when they find out they have to be called back yet again," he said.

Helplines have been set up for anyone concerned about their breast screening result.

They are: Antrim Area Hospital - 0500 825 158; Altnagelvin - 02871 611213 and Belfast City Hospital - 02890 263531.

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