News & Insights: Healthcare

Muckamore Abbey Hospital Inquiry Update 20th November 2023

20 November 2023

Judgment has now been provided in a Judicial Review Application made to the High Court on an matter which arose during the course of the Inquiry’s proceedings. The Review hearing took place over 2 days in September 2023 before Mr Justice Scoffield , the senior judicial review judge at the High Court in Belfast.

At issue, the Inquiry Chair’s request for patient’s confidential medical notes and records from the record holder, the Belfast health and Social care Trust.

The Chair of the Inquiry Mr Tom Kark KC had made a ruling in respect of the Inquiry’s “targeted” patient document requests (PDRs) for relevant patient medical notes and records to be disclosed to the Inquiry by the Belfast Trust.  That ruling was then challenged by a relative of a patient. This person was granted anonymity by the court.

In essence the challenge concerned whether, and to what extent, patients or their guardians should be involved in requests by the Inquiry for patient medical notes and records. The Inquiry and the Belfast Trust were respondents to the application. O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors were granted notice party status for a former patient’s next of kin who is within the CP3 group and on whose behalf, we obtained anonymity.

The judgment was delivered on 15th November 2023 and should soon be available on the NI Court Service website.

The judge summarised the applicant’s position as follows:

“She wishes to be notified of the request for her son’s records, to therefore be aware of the exact nature and scope of the request and the purpose for which it was made, and to then have an opportunity to be heard if she has an issue with, or concerns about, the request.”

Whilst the judge was satisfied that the applicant had an arguable case, he rejected the claim.

Notwithstanding this we believe his conclusions are positive for the CP3 group whom we represent in that he remarked:

“. that a public inquiry which so obtains medical records must inform the patient that it has done so [and] some indication should be given to the patient that the confidentiality of their records has been overridden by the exercise of the inquiry’s statutory powers. This should be done as soon as practicable, which in most cases will be as soon as the records are received, unless there is some particular reason why this step would, in the circumstances, undermine the inquiry’s investigation if notification occurred at that time” [paragraph 123].

O’Reilly Stewart Healthcare continues to represent the interests of a large group of patients and relatives affected by the issues under consideration by the Inquiry.

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