Letter: Allitt report: a question of justice

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The Independent Online
Sir: Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, in her statement to the House of Commons, said that no one person was to blame for the Allitt affair (report, 12 February). I write as former Maternity and Gynaecology Clinical Services Manager for Grantham and Kesteven Hospital, one of the four people made redundant by the hospital and named by the media as bearing responsibility for this tragedy.

I was not officially appointed as clinical services manager to Ward 4 until December 1992, 18 months after the tragedy. Before then, I was carrying this post in addition to my contracted position, having being instructed by memo from senior management to take over the day- to-day management of this ward. I was given no change of contract, no job description and no change of salary. Neither was I offered any training in preparation for this new speciality. This surely is an outstanding failure to follow proper appointment procedures - a main criticism in the report - but this failure was not even mentioned.

The report is selective in its facts; it was the failure to follow procedures in all departments that led to the appointment of Allitt to Ward 4. The fact that Allitt had been a pupil nurse in training at the hospital for nearly two years and had worked on all wards within the hospital, including Ward 4, without any adverse comment, has not been mentioned in any newspaper report.

The report accuses me of dilatory and ineffective action when apprised of suspicions of foul play. It was not within my remit or my authority to take any more action than I did at the time. A nurse had replied to my advertisement in November 1991 whom I would have engaged, subject to the successful completion of the required checks. This nurse would have filled the post subsequently offered to Allitt. I was then told that no money was available to employ this nurse.

I was called twice to give evidence before Sir Cecil Clothier. I was not shown any part of evidence given to the inquiry concerning myself, until I received a draft copy of some of the sections of the report concerning myself in January. I was asked for my comments concerning the correctness of the report, which I sent to the inquiry on 17 January. However, the report has taken little account of my comments and, for this reason, is structurally flawed and some of its conclusions may not be based on true facts.

I ask: has a person who is called to an independent inquiry and not told of evidence stated against her when being questioned - and who is given a right of comment which does not show in the final report - been given a fair hearing? Does that accord with British justice?

Yours faithfully,

D. M. ONIONS

Newark, Nottinghamshire

12 February

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