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Task force is set up to implement actions recommended by Hyponatraemia Inquiry

By Staff Reporter

Health chiefs have set up a team to implement the findings of the Hyponatraemia Inquiry.

Department of Health permanent secretary Richard Pengelly said that they would draw up an action plan to deliver the 96 recommendations in the report.

In a series of meetings yesterday senior departmental officials met chief executives and chairs of organisations across the Health and Social Care system.

Mr Pengelly said: "This has been a devastating week for the families affected by the events considered by the inquiry.

"In addition, everyone involved in health and social care will have been affected and will have cause to reflect on the findings.

This is true for all staff, at every level."

The inquiry, headed by Sir John O'Hara QC, found that the deaths of four children could have been avoided, and doctors covered up failures in care.

Mr Pengelly said that a key priority for the team would be laying the foundations for an incoming minister to establish a legal duty of candour for healthcare professionals.

He also said that health trusts would address issues relating to individuals named in the report.

"Contact has already been made with the independent National Clinical Assessment Service and the General Medical Council (GMC) and agreement has been reached on the approach in relation to the concerns raised by the inquiry regarding doctors' actions," he said.

"The General Medical Council, which regulates all doctors in the UK, requires any doctor who is criticised in an inquiry to inform the GMC.

"We expect full compliance with this requirement. A way forward is also being discussed with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

"Everyone who attended today's meetings is in no doubt that public confidence has been damaged.

"Some reassurance can be provided from the inquiry report's observation that 'lessons have been learnt' and that 'the health service environment has most definitely been transformed since the period under review'.

"However, whilst true, this should not be a cause for complacency as there remains much to do."

Mr Pengelly also said that resources would be made available to Sir John to further explore the issue of a whistleblower's complaint.

Meanwhile, former Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells said: "I would suggest that we go further and make it an offence, not only a duty of candour, but to make it an offence to be proved to be deliberately withholding information, as clearly happened in this case.

"People had information which could have given answers and would have given the families some comfort, and that information was deliberately withheld."

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