December 23, 2003
ACTION IN BABY TANKS TEST ROW
An Mp today called on the
General Medical Council to speed up its investigation into a string of
complaints brought by North Staffordshire parents over controversial
hospital research carried out more than 10 years ago.
Newcastle's Paul Farrelly wants the allegations faced by
internationally-acclaimed paediatrician Professor David Southall to be
heard on the same day as a hearing into a separate action being taken
The Labour MP stepped in after it emerged a date has been fixed in June
for the case of Sally Clark - the Wilmslow lawyer jailed for killing her
two baby sons but then freed in January after having the conviction
quashed - to go before the GMC's high-powered Professional Conduct
Committee, which has the power to strike off doctors. While the Sally
Clark appeal was being prepared, Prof Southall is said to have contacted
the Crown Prosecution Service with an opinion about the case.
Mr Farrelly is working on behalf of parents whose complaints relate to the
so-called CNEP research led in the early 1990s by the University Hospital
of North Staffordshire professor.
They claim babies died or were left brain damaged by the technique which
involved lowering pressure inside specialist CNEP tanks to help premature
infants breathe without needing ventilation.
The allegations have been denied by the doctors and the hospital - but
despite being lodged more than five years ago, they are still being
screened to see if they can form the basis of a full disciplinary hearing.
Mr Farrelly said: "Without prejudicing the Clark case, its outcome
could result in the CNEP cases never getting a full public hearing by the
GMC. That would prevent major questions surrounding the CNEP study being
explored and answered in public."
Aside from CNEP, Professor Southall - who was cleared by a hospital
inquiry of all wrong-doing in his clinical practice - now has to answer a
total of eight complaints of alleged misdiagnosis of child abuse at the
GMC conduct committee.
Deborah Henshall, of Clayton whose brain-damaged daughter Sofie underwent
CNEP as a baby, said: "Until now only bits and pieces of this complex
and deeply-worrying issue have been investigated behind closed