Family say questions remain over care of teenager Conor Mitchell after scathing Hyponatremia Inquiry report,

Conor Mitchell
Conor Mitchell

The family of Conor Mitchell, whose sudden and unexplained death was part of the Hyponatremia Inquiry, said questions about his care remain unanswered.

The Lurgan teenager had been admitted to Craigavon Hospital in May 2003 before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where he died.

Speaking last night, the 15-year-old’s family issued a comprehensive statement saying that they didn’t believe the Trusts apology was genuine and that the silence which has followed is ‘telling’.

“While the improvement in Craigavon noted by the Inquiry is to be welcomed it still falls short of what is needed. To date no-one has given any explanation to Conor’s family for the treatment he received and to provide them with any answers to the many questions which still remain unanswered,” said the family.

However when the Southern Health Trust was asked for a comment on the family statement last night, it referred to a joint statement issued by all the trusts following the scathing report of the Hyponatremia Inquiry.

The inquiry examined certain issues arising from the treatment of the teenager. The report found there was a ‘potentially dangerous variation in care and treatment afforded to young people at Craigavon Hospital’.

This is the family’s statement in full:

“Mr Justice O’Hara and his team of legal and medical professionals have conducted a compassionate and professional Inquiry which has exhaustively investigated all the issues within their remit.

“Their approach and consideration stands in stark contrast to the manner and attitude displayed by the parties involved in the treatment of the children nor the management or advisors they turned to for protection afterwards.

“The report published yesterday severely undermines the Health Service which is meant to be there to protect and treat all of us when we are ill and in particular the weakest in our society who place their utmost trust in the medical staff.

“The failings identified by the Report in the treatment provided to these children and the subsequent handling of the investigations damages the health service as a whole, the individual Trusts, the medical facilities in those Trusts and doctors and nurses providing the front line care. While there are many hard working and professional people in those positions the way in which those identified have acted, their history of failings and deliberate evasion of the truth, at best, demeans us all.

“Conor was a beautiful child who lived life to the full. His disability did not define him in life and will not define him in death. The decisions made in Craigavon Hospital leading to his death and the decisions not to treat his death properly until required to by this Inquiry are all matters that are still unexplained.

“The Inquiry could not look at all the issues in Conor’s treatment as it did not come under their Terms of Reference. Conor’s family repeat their thanks and gratitude to the Inquiry, it’s Chairman, the legal and medical advisors and the support staff who have worked to achieve the Report, for all that they have done and uncovered through their efforts.

“Conor’s family have still never received any explanation for many of the failings in Conor’s treatment. They received a less than fulsome acknowledgement and limited apology at the very last minute which they still believe was intended to prevent a public examination of any issues. They do not believe this was a genuine apology and the silence which has followed is telling.

“The findings in the Report about the lack of training of staff, the inconsistent treatment of children, the deliberate mis-information provided and the lack of proper leadership are shocking.

“While the improvement in Craigavon noted by the Inquiry is to be welcomed it still falls short of what is needed. To date no-one has given any explanation to Conor’s family for the treatment he received and to provide them with any answers to the many questions which still remain unanswered. The proof of the assertions that the Trusts and Health Service have noted the failings and will take the Recommendations on board is yet to be seen.”

This is the joint statement from the health trusts following the report’s publication:

“On behalf of Belfast, Southern and Western Trusts : “We unreservedly apologise to the families of Adam Strain, Claire Roberts, Lucy Crawford, Raychel Ferguson and Conor Mitchell for our many failings.

“We welcome today’s publication of the Report and will urgently review the recommendations to ensure that all possible steps have been taken to prevent this ever happening again.

“We made mistakes, we were not as open and transparent as we could and should have been, and opportunities to learn from each other to make our care safer were missed – for this we are truly sorry.

“Surely, there can be no greater pain for a parent than to lose their child and then to learn that errors occurred which were avoidable.

“Since these tragic deaths occurred significant lessons have been learned in how we safely manage fluids in children and many improvements have been put in place.

“Although much has been achieved to promote an open and transparent culture, we know that much more still needs to be done.

“We are wholly committed to achieving this and welcome the recommendation of a duty of candour.

“We as Medical Directors on behalf of our Trusts pledge to drive forward the lessons learned as a result of this Inquiry.”