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Family's anger at 'lack of courtesy' over midwife hearing

By Joanne Sweeney

Published 06/07/2015

Tragedy: Paul O’Neill died 10 years ago
Tragedy: Paul O’Neill died 10 years ago

The mother of a baby who died under the care of former midwife Heather McComish has claimed that she missed out on vital "closure" on her grief from seeing her struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Olivia Bell and her partner says that her family only learned about the NMC ruling after reading a Belfast Telegraph report - despite being promised that they could give evidence at it.

The NMC - which stuck McComish off 10 years after the first complaint - has now apologised to the parents of Paul O'Neill for not delivering "its normal standards of customer service" and for causing them further distress.

Baby Paul O'Neill was the first baby to die as a result of the "catastrophic negligence" by the midwife when he was born at Antrim Area Hospital in November 5, 2005. He died four days later from brain damage. Another baby also under McComish's care - Matthew White - died five days after he was born on November 3, 2006.

Inquests into the deaths of both infants concluded that McComish failed to take appropriate action and readings of their heartbeats during their deliveries.

Baby Paul O'Neill's family claims that the NMC had promised that Olivia, her partner and his mother would be able to give evidence after a meeting arranged two years ago was later cancelled.

Olivia's sister, who acted as liaison for Paul's parents, told the Belfast Telegraph: "We are very disappointed at the lack of decent courtesy from the NMC to tell us about when the hearing was being heard.

"Olivia wanted to be there to get some closure and could have been as it was held in Belfast.

"Our meeting was cancelled as there was an ongoing police investigation but the council told us they would come back to the family in relation to their investigation into Ms McComish.

"We made the assumption it would make contact when it was appropriate to do so. Also the council led us to believe we would have an opportunity to speak at any hearing, the rest as they say is history."

A NMC spokesman said: "We recognise that this must have been a very difficult period for the family members and fully understand their wish to be kept informed about regulatory action taken in response to the poor care they received. On this occasion we did not deliver our normal standards of customer service and for this we apologise to the family, and for any distress this has caused them."

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