Hospital condemned over experiments on babies

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A hospital trust was condemned yesterday for a catalogue of failings in a research trial on premature babies that left 43 children dead or suffering from brain damage.

An inquiry into the North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust found serious flaws in the design and supervision of the trial of a ventilator used on 122 babies. Parents were unaware their children were being given an experimental treatment, measurement of the treatment's success was unsatisfactory and monitoring was inadequate, the inquiry concluded.

The inquiry, chaired by Professor Rod Griffiths, director of public health for the West Midlands, was ordered by ministers a year ago after complaints from parents that they had been misled about the experimental nature of the ventilator. The inquiry team make clear they believe the parents' accounts of what they were told rather than the researchers.

The inquiry criticised David Southall, a consultant at the trust, who led the research, for failing to supervise it properly. The local research ethics committee is also criticised.

Accepting the recommendations yesterday, the Health minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said that every patient had the right to be fully informed about decisions which affected them.