Hyponatraemia Inquiry concludes deaths were avoidable and negligent

5 February 2018

The Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related deaths was set up by Angela Smith, Minister with responsibility for Health, Social Services and Public Safety under article 54 of the Health and Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 after allegations that mistakes had been made by hospital staff administering intravenous fluids.

The inquiry was set up in 2004 to investigate the tragic deaths of five children due to hyponatraemia whilst under the care of Northern Ireland hospitals.

Hyponatraemia is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in your blood is abnormally low which can be fatal. Sodium helps to regulate the amount of water in and around cells.

Hyponatraemia can occur in a hospital setting when fluids are not administered properly. The issue of management of hospital fluids was central to the work of a 14-year public inquiry chaired by Mr Justice O'Hara and his report published on 31 January 2018.

The Report highlighted a catalogue of failings on the part of various hospitals and concluding that the deaths of four of the five children were negligent and avoidable.

Mr Justice O'Hara noted that the evidence from the inquiry indicated that doctors and managers cannot simply be relied upon to do the right thing at the right time.

It was further reported that medical professionals should stop putting their own reputations and interests first and put the public interest first describing some medical practitioners as behaving "evasively, dishonestly and ineptly" throughout the inquiry.

The report recognises the need for a duty of candour which is paramount to patient safety. Medical practitioners should be open and honest, acknowledge, inform and explain to patients and their families about failings in care and to use these opportunities to learn and improve.

Should you have any queries regarding Hyponatraemia-related injuries or deaths or any other medical negligence matter, please contact our experienced medical negligence team at HHD - Damian Deazley (damiandeazley@hhdsolicitors.com) and Lauren Jones (laurenjones@hhdsolicitors.com)



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