Brain damage claims dismissed

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The Independent Online
CLAIMS by mothers that their babies were born brain-damaged because of mismanagement at a hospital were dismissed yesterday.

More than 30 cases of medical negligence are pending against Doncaster Health Authority.

An inquiry found 'no clear evidence' that more babies suffered brain damage at birth in the South Yorkshire town than elsewhere. But a lawyer representing many parents said they were disappointed by the report.

Presenting the report at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, where the allegations of mismanagement were directed, the regional director of public health, Professor Richard Alderslade, said: 'The result of the inquiry showed no evidence that these allegations are correct.'

Trent Health Authority commissioned two experts to find out whether the incidence of brain- damaged babies was higher at the hospital than in comparable areas.

The report concluded: 'There is no clear evidence that more babies suffered brain damage from events occurring during or shortly after delivery in Doncaster than in any other areas of England or elsewhere for which reliable data is available.'

For the future, they said, two developments make it easier for health authorities and community health councils to monitor local maternity services.

First, from January a national inquiry will be launched into selected stillbirths and deaths in infancy, concentrating initially on events during delivery.

Secondly, NHS changes introduced in April 1991 make Doncaster Health Authority responsible for contracting for services from hospitals and for monitoring their quality. The experts recognised that the quality of local maternity services could affect only a fraction of all perinatal deaths and of all disabling cerebral palsy.

Daniel Simons, a lawyer representing about 30 families, said: 'We are devastated. It is with sadness that we must conclude this report has done absolutely nothing to restore our confidence in maternity services provided at the Doncaster Maternity Hospital.

'This state of affairs will apparently continue until such time as the real problem is recognised and addressed.'