Belfast Telegraph

'Deep frustration' at delay in implementing recommendations of hyponatraemia report

Concern: Koulla Yiasouma
Concern: Koulla Yiasouma
Ralph Hewitt

By Ralph Hewitt

The Children's Commissioner has said she's deeply frustrated and very concerned at the lack of progress to implement recommendations made in the report into hyponatraemia related deaths.

Five children - Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts, Conor Mitchell and Lucy Crawford - died in hospital here. Their deaths were the focus of an inquiry into hyponatraemia, a condition which occurs when the level of sodium in the blood becomes abnormally low.

The inquiry examined the role mismanagement played, as well as how the deaths were handled by health officials and whether some could have been prevented.

It was recommended by the Hyponatraemia Inquiry that the Department of Health (DoH) should review the merits of introducing a Child Death Overview Panel in Northern Ireland.

However, speaking after the DoH's latest progress report was published yesterday, Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said: "Having made repeated requests to the Department of Health for assurance that this important recommendation is being sufficiently progressed, I am deeply frustrated and very concerned at the lack of meaningful progress on this critical issue."

The DoH stated that most of the recommendations from the inquiry's report are now operational but some require Ministerial approval, which cannot be granted without an Executive up and running at Stormont.

In his report, which was released in December 2018, John O'Hara QC said the deaths of four of the children were preventable and were caused by medical negligence, and that some doctors had engaged in cover-ups.

The report also suggested that 96 recommendations be implemented to prevent a similar situation happening in the future.

Yesterday's update report - Working Together to Put Things Right - is more detailed than the previous three and provides further information on progress.

A DoH spokesperson added: "For those [recommendations] that we can action, circulars will issue to the relevant Health and Social Care organisations advising them of the actions they should take to implement the recommendations.

"When necessary, circulars will be accompanied by new or updated guidance which will have already been developed by the programme co-produced by stakeholders.

"For those that do require Ministerial and Executive approval, proposals are being drawn up, some of which may include an analysis of different options for the implementation of the recommendations."

The next update is due to be released in May 2020 when it is hoped that circulars will have been issued within the health service detailing how recommendations should be implemented.

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