Allitt case doctors fear being made scapegoats: Consultants' statements 'regrettable'

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The Independent Online
TWO DOCTORS in charge of the ward where nurse Beverly Allitt murdered four children, yesterday defended their actions and were immediately condemned for speaking out by the chairman of the official inquiry into her crimes.

Dr Charithnanda Nanayakkara and Dr Nelson Porter were pre-empting the findings of the inquiry, expected next month, which they fear will make them 'scapegoats'. But in an unprecedented move Sir Cecil Clothier QC, chairman of the confidential Allitt inquiry, last night accused them of 'injudicious' statements in a 'regrettable attempt to influence the outcome of an inquiry conducted in the public interest'.

Allitt, 25, was given 13 life sentences last year for attacks on children in her care at the Grantham and Kesteven General Hospital, Lincolnshire. The Independent reported earlier this week that the Clothier report is likely to pin blame on Dr Nanayakkara and Dr Porter, and two nurses, Sister Barbara Baker and Moira Onions, for the 58 days in 1991 during which Allitt was on Ward 4.

At a press conference in London, Dr Nanayakkara and Dr Porter, both consultant paediatricians who are now redundant after reorganisation at the hospital, said it was their 'appropriate' response to the epidemic of mystery deaths and injuries on Ward 4 that had safeguarded the lives of many more children, and prompted the police inquiry.

They said they had acted 'professionally and competently within limited resources'. The hospital suffered a severe shortage of paediatric staff; an internal inquiry by Trent Regional Health Authority had found that there should be at least five more doctors in the paediatric unit.

Dr Nanayakkara said: 'For legal and other reasons we have not had any chance to tell . . . what we did during the time of the Allitt murders.

'We believe passionately . . . that if it were not for our dedication and diligence, many more children would have died or suffered severe disability.'

Dr Porter criticised the inquiry's terms of reference which had not included a review of resources and staffing levels in the unit. Allitt was hired because a shortage of nurses and funds meant that better qualified staff could not be employed.

He questioned the secrecy surrounding the inquiry and the fact that, 'the inquiry panel had no paediatrician on it . . . Under the circumstances, one would expect any judgement on the provision of paediatric services to be undertaken with a professional colleague in the same field.'

With the backing of the British Medical Association, the doctors are appealing against their redundancies.

David Southall, Professor of Paediatrics at Keele University and an expert on Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy (a desire to inflict injury to gain medical attention, thought to have motivated Allitt), said that in his view neither doctor had acted negligently or with any lack of concern.

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