Belfast Telegraph

Official probe sparked by TV investigation into hospital tragedies

By Anna Maguire

In November 2004 Angela Smith, the then Health Minister, announced that she had appointed John O'Hara QC to conduct an inquiry into issues raised by a UTV Insight programme which focused on the deaths of three children – Lucy Crawford, Raychel Ferguson and Adam Strain.

The inquiry is examining the deaths of Adam (4), Raychel (9) and Claire Roberts (9), all of whom died in hospital between 1995 and 2001.

It is also investigating events following the death of Lucy (17 months) and specific issues arising from the treatment of Conor Mitchell (15), both of whom also died in hospital.

Hyponatraemia – a condition where there is not enough salt in the body, causing the brain to swell – is the common thread connecting the five deaths.

The issue of fluid management is also central to the inquiry. It has heard from the parents of and clinicians who treated Adam, Claire and Raychel, and has focused on the aftermath of Lucy's death in April 2000.

In March, Raychel's mother Marie told the inquiry that her daughter received a "severe lack of basic care and attention" at Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital and accused staff of a cover-up.

A month earlier, the inquiry heard from Ann Noble, a nurse in charge of the ward where Raychel was being treated in 2001.

She told the inquiry that she did not anticipate any problem with using Solution No 18, administered to patients losing or at risk of losing water and sodium, as Raychel had been "a fit and healthy child".

The inquiry has moved into the governance stage – where it will focus on the actions taken by the authorities after the deaths of the children.

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