Girl, 15, worked heart monitor

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A HEALTH union yesterday called for an inquiry after a 15-year- old girl was employed to operate a hospital heart-monitoring machine. The girl, who worked for three hours every weekend, was trained to operate an electrocardiograph monitor at Perth Royal Infirmary.

Her duties involved attaching terminals to patients' chests and taking readings to doctors. Health chiefs at Perth and Kinross NHS trust at first defended hiring her - but she has now lost her job. Jim Devine, senior Unison regional officer, said he planned to write to Scottish health minister Sam Galbraith asking for an investigation. "I am very concerned a schoolgirl has been allowed to operate a crucial piece of equipment in something as important as a cardiovascular unit."

The Scottish Office said yesterday: "While we are assured that there was no breach of employment requirements for schoolchildren, we cannot condone the involvement of such young people in patient-related duties. We are glad to see that the trust has reaffirmed that such duties will not be undertaken in this way in the future".

Dr William Gray, director of Perth and Kinross NHS trust, initially defended the hospital's decision to employ the girl, saying he had confidence in her ability to handle the post.

"The duties involved would be an inappropriate use of skilled nursing or medical staff, and the employment of someone else to do this work means that doctors and nurses are freed to undertake more appropriate clinical duties," he said. "The individual concerned has received full training to carry out the job, which can be learned in a few hours."

But shortly after girl was dismissed by the trust's director of personnel, Bob Ironside, who said: "It has been decided such duties should no longer be undertaken by individuals in this age bracket."