Alder Hey chief found guilty of misconduct

Ian Herbert,North
Tuesday 20 November 2001 01:00

The suspended chief executive of Alder Hey hospital is likely to be dismissed after a disciplinary panel found her guilty of misconduct for her role in a scandal over the removal of children's organs.

The internal panel said on Monday that Hilary Rowland, 49, had brought the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust and herself into disrepute. The hospital's public censure followed a three-day hearing by an independent chairwoman and two non-executive directors of the trust, who are expected to make further announcements later in the week.

In January, after a public inquiry, the Redfern report revealed that thousands of organs had been stripped from children's bodies without their parents' consent. The document criticised Ms Rowland for claiming to have no knowledge of the extent of the scandal; for failing to act upon a complaint from a parent; and for refusing to address the issue when it became public.

Angela Jones, the NHS trust's chairwoman, confirmed the misconduct verdict yesterday. She said it had been "a difficult time for everyone involved, not least the staff who have continued to work through all of this with determination and commitment".

Hospital sources suggested it was common practice for the NHS to remove staff found guilty of misconduct.

John O'Hare, a spokesman for the Alder Hey parent support group, Pity II, said Ms Rowland should be barred from the NHS. "This decision is the right one and we are pleased to hear someone is finally being held accountable for mishandling the situation," he said.

Ms Rowland was suspended and on "extended leave" in March last year. The NHS trust denied she was forced out, saying she was resting while still taking her £85,000 salary.

The 600-page Redfern report named Professor Dick van Velzen, the head of foetal and infant pathology from 1988 to 1995, as the central figure in the scandal, but said that Ms Rowland and others knew what was going on.

Ms Rowland was involved in the case of a patient called Christopher, a 15-year-old diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1993. His parents requested that there be no post-mortem examination, but contacted Ms Rowland in May 1994 when they discovered their wishes had been ignored.

Ms Rowland chose to accept Professor van Velzen's story that there had been no post-mortem examination. The inquiry found his claims about Christopher's case were a "tissue of lies" and "any reasonable assessment of [the story] would have led Ms Rowland to conclude that [it was] nonsense".

Ms Rowland was also criticised for declining to attend a meeting with parents in 1999 because she had not been formally invited, and for refusing to discuss an interim report into the organ retention issue last year.

The parents involved remain angry that among those named in the Redfern report only Professor van Velzen and the former Alder Hey medical director Dr John Martin are certain to be disciplined.

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