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Not a single doctor `available' to discuss law after child death's inquiry

The 684-page hyponatraemia report focuses on the deaths of Adam Strain (4), Claire Roberts (9), Raychel Ferguson (9), 18-month-old Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell, who was 15

NOT a single Northern Ireland doctor was available yesterday to discuss a senior judge's call for a law requiring they disclose information about major failures in patient care.

Mr Justice O'Hara gave a devastating assessment of senior doctors and health service managers who "covered up" failings into "avoidable" deaths as he delivered the findings of his report into hyponatraemia-related deaths.

The inquiry chairman, whose investigation into the deaths of five children - Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Raychel Ferguson, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell - began 14 years ago, said some medics had behaved "evasively, dishonestly and ineptly".

He found that four of the deaths were avoidable and the children had received unacceptable care during the administration of intravenous fluid.

The judge was scathing of how families were treated afterwards and of evidence from medics.

"It is time that the medical profession and health service managers stopped putting their own reputations and interests first and put the public interest first," he said.

Among the inquiry's 96 recommendations is that "as a matter of urgency a statutory duty of candour should be introduced".

"That would impose a duty to tell patients and their families about major failures in care and to give a full and honest explanation."

Claire Roberts Hyponatraemia.

BMA Northern Ireland, which represents "over 5,500 doctors and medical students within the unique health economy and devolved governmental structures in Northern Ireland", said "no doctors are available today or yesterday to talk about hyponatraemia".

They referred the Irish News to their governing body, the GMC, and to the Royal College of General Practitioners.

In a statement last night GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said the inquiry raised some "serious concerns" and said the organisation supported the introduction of "a statutory duty of candour."

"It’s vital that doctors and all other professionals are open and honest with patients and employers. All doctors already have a professional duty of candour.

"Our Good Medical Practice guidance for doctors, which Justice O’Hara has highlighted in his report, and our Guidance on Raising and Acting on Concerns are clear that all doctors must raise concerns and be open and honest with their patients," he said.

"The GMC will consider all of the recommendations to identify where they relate to the regulation of medical professionals, medical education and training.

"Where this is the case, we will work with the Department of Health, the health and social care sector and medical education and training providers to address them."

PACEMAKER PRESS BELFAST Tues 26/03/2013 Raymond and Maire Ferguson gave evidence today at Banbridge Court in relation to the inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related deaths. Their daughter, Raychel Ferguson died in 2001 after being admitted to Altnagelvin Hospital to have her appendix removed. She was nine years old. Picture: Conor Greenan/Pacemaker.

The family of Conor Mitchell yesterday welcomed the panel's "compassionate and professional inquiry", which they said was "in stark contrast to the manner and attitude displayed by the parties involved in the treatment of the children (and) the management or advisers they turned to for protection afterwards".

The three hospital trusts criticised in the report made an unreserved apology and acknowledged there had been many "failings" and "mistakes".

Hyponatraemis caserAdam Strain story anne madden

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