Preliminary tests suggest that twins who passed away after they were born at a scandal-hit NHS hospital died because they were so premature, police said today.
Alfie Shaun and Harry Stuart McQuillan were two days old when they died on November 1, an officer at the south Staffordshire coroner's office said.
The babies died at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire after being transferred from Stafford Hospital, which has been heavily criticised for appalling levels of care and is the subject of an ongoing public inquiry.
Antony Sumara, chief executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, said a member of staff had been suspended following the deaths of the twins.
According to unconfirmed reports, health officials are examining whether the twins were given incorrect doses of a drug.
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said the twins were born prematurely, adding: "Post-mortem examinations by a Home Office pathologist proved inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out.
"However, preliminary results suggest that the twins died because of their prematurity rather than as a direct result of any medical treatment."
The spokesman said the boys were transferred from Stafford Hospital, where they were born on October 30, to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire after their condition deteriorated.
An inquest into the twins' deaths was opened and adjourned by south Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh on Monday.
The police spokesman said: "We have been liaising with hospital staff, and with the twins' parents, who have our deepest sympathies."
Mr Sumara said: "We are all absolutely devastated that the twins have passed away. Our deepest sympathy and our thoughts are with the parents and their loved ones at this most difficult time.
"We have commissioned a full external investigation into the events while the twins were at our hospital. This is under way and is being led by an independent paediatric doctor. At present we have suspended one member of staff."
Peter Walsh, chief executive of patient safety charity Action Against Medical Accidents, said: "This is one of those awful, awful tragedies. It is impossible to say whether it has got anything to do with systemic problems at the trust or whether it is a tragic one-off.
"It is a dreadful, unimaginable tragedy for the family and it is yet another blow for morale at the trust at a time when it is already vulnerable."
Police said the twins were born at 27 weeks.
Maggie Oldham, Chief Operating Officer of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Our deepest sympathy and our thoughts continue to be with the twins' parents and their loved ones at this most difficult time.
"We have commissioned a full external investigation and this will be led by an independent paediatric doctor."
She added: "The public inquiry started this week and we would like to refer to Robert Francis QC's opening statement on Monday in which he said, 'It is inevitable there will continue to be incidents giving cause for concern, both at Stafford and in other hospitals as well. Such incidents do not of themselves show that there has been no improvement, any more than that the absence of such incidents would prove everything has been put right.'
"We at Mid Staffs have made significant improvements.
"At the time of the Healthcare Commission Review in 2008, this hospital's mortality rate was in the bottom 10% in the country and now our mortality rate is in the top 10%.
"This however has not made us complacent and we are working continually to improve our services and the care we provide for our patients and their loved ones."
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