Northern Ireland news

Lord Chief Justice hits out at delays in rolling out Hyponatraemia recommendation

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has criticised the impact of Stormont's collapse on the hyponatraemia inquiry. Picture by Hugh Russell

NORTHERN Ireland's most senior judge has branded the stalling of recommendations from an inquiry into the hospitals deaths of five children as "appalling".

Sir Declan Morgan said the absence of a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland meant the 96 recommendations from the Hyponatraemia Public Inquiry could not be rolled out.

The damning inquiry was published on January 31 and found that four of the deaths were "avoidable".

The inquiry, which ran for 14 years, delivered a devastating assessment of a health service in which doctors and NHS managers were more intent on protecting their own reputations and who "deliberately misled" parents.

Sir Declan said the collapse of Stormont meant there was no government scrutiny of health service failings.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning government for more than 600 days.

"If the executive had been sitting these matters would have been torn apart by the health committee and there may even have been proposals to get round to implementing quite a number of them," he told the BBC.

"Obviously, there are things that we can look at and we will try and administratively do what we can but this is another example similar to the Historical Institutional Abuse inquiry where those who were abused, where we desperately need somebody to take responsibility for ensuring we move forward," Sir Declan told the BBC.

"It really is shocking that we find ourselves in a position now over 600 days and we can do nothing. It's appalling."

The inquiry focussed on the deaths of five children over an eight-year period between 1995 and 2003: Adam Strain, aged four, Raychel Ferguson (9), Claire Roberts (9), 17-month-old Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell, who was 15.

Sir Declan was speaking ahead of a conference in Belfast conference about managing error in health care.

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