Alder Hey staff were scapegoats, insists hospital boss

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The chairman of Alder Hey Children's Hospital has launched an astonishing attack on the Government's chief medical officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, accusing him of "political expediency" and "poor judgement" over the organ retention scandal.

David Hughes, a consultant paediatrician and chairman of the Liverpool hospital's medical board, says Professor Donaldson was looking for someone to blame when he referred many senior medical staff to the General Medical Council.

Professor Donaldson asked the council to investigate doctors criticised in the report of the Redfern inquiry, published last January, which found organs had been stripped from the bodies of thousands of children without their parents' consent. More than 80 doctors were named, of whom an estimated 16 or 17 were criticised.

Most criticism was levelled at Professor Dick Van Velzen, the Dutch pathologist who has since been struck off the medical register by the GMC. A case is going ahead against Dr John Martin, a consultant at the hospital for 30 years and its former medical director for six years until his retirement in 1997.

The cases against the remaining doctors have been dropped, prompting Dr Hughes to launch his attack in the correspondence columns of today's British Medical Journal. Dr Hughes writes: "It was with great distress that we witnessed the indiscriminate referral of our colleagues to the GMC by Professor Donaldson in an action that displayed poor judgement and political expediency. This action demonstrated a need to seek individuals to blame rather than acknowledge the culture that created the circumstances for 'scandals' that were manifestly widespread and an accepted part of the system."

Dr Hughes also criticises the GMC for the "demeaning" way in which it handled the cases and for telling solicitors acting for the parents that charges against most doctors had been dropped.

A Department of Health spokesman said the GMC's attention had been drawn to the fact that doctors other than Professor Van Velzen had been criticised.A GMC spokeswoman said information had been given to the solicitors because they had a genuine interest.

*Derriford Hospital in Plymouth has suspended kidney transplant operations involving live donors after four out of the five performed this year failed.

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