Northern Ireland news

Hyponatraemia: Former Northern Ireland minister calls for updates on report recommendations

A report on the Hyponatraemia Inquiry was published in January, 14 years after it was first ordered
Staff Reporter

THE Department of Health must give regular updates on what recommendations have been implemented following the Hyponatraemia Inquiry, the House of Lords has said.

An inquiry was set up 14 years ago to examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of five children.

In January, Justice O'Hara QC found that four out of five of the children's deaths were avoidable.

He also repeatedly pointed to a failure by medics and their health trust managers to inform both families and the coroner about major shortcomings in their loved ones' care.

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Justice O'Hara made 96 recommendations.

His report focused on Adam Strain (4), Claire Roberts (9), Raychel Ferguson (9), 18-month-old Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell, who was 15.

Their deaths took place between 1995 and 2003 at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in Belfast.

Hyponatraemia occurs when there is a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream. The investigation examined whether fatal errors were made in the administration of intravenous fluids.

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, Baroness Angela Smith, a former Northern Ireland minister who set up the inquiry in 2004, said updates on the progress of the recommendations were needed in the absence of an Executive.

"It seems wrong that a lack of political responsibility in Northern Ireland, with no ministers and no assembly, should prevent action, and prevent those concerned, particularly the families of the children I have mentioned, knowing what action is being taken," she said.

Baroness Smith was speaking during the Northern Ireland Executive Functions Bill.

Viscount Younger of Leckie told the house the deputy chief medical officer would brief Justice O'Hara QC at the end of November.

In January this year, allegations emerged from a whistleblower that material from the Western Trust may have been withheld from the inquiry.

Mr Justice O'Hara released a statement yesterday confirming he had "concerns" about this issue.

The chairman confirmed that he would be publishing the findings of an investigation into the matter in January.

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