Doctor harassed us, say parents

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THE HOSPITAL at the centre of an inquiry into experimental treatment on premature babies has called in outside experts to examine a separate complaint about harassment of parents accused of child abuse.

The North Staffordshire Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent, said allegations involving the consultant paediatrician David Southall were "potentially serious", although unsubstantiated, and it was calling in independent experts because it wanted to be "seen to be doing the right thing". The complaint relates to his work on the attention-seeking disorder Munchausen's by Proxy, which included videotaping parents abusing their children.

Professor Southall, who has been at the North Staffordshire Hospital for a decade, is now the subject of three investigations. Ministers ordered a review of research at the infirmary after complaints by parents whose premature babies were included in a study of a new type of ventilator. Of 144 who had the treatment, 28 died and 15 were brain-damaged. The General Medical Council is conducting an inquiry into parents' complaints they were misled about the experimental nature of the treatment.

The third investigation, by the trust, is into the claims by parents accused of child abuse that they were "harassed" and "victimised" by Professor Southall. In a statement issued to The Independent last night, the trust said it took all complaints seriously and was working to ascertain whether there was any evidence to support those made in this case.