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Anger grows over forgery probe 'farce'.

AN investigation into forgery allegations at a Midland hospital has been labelled a farce by angry parents.

North Staffordshire Hospital ran a trial of low-pressure ventilators for premature babies from 1989 to 1993 but 43 children died or suffered brain damage after receiving treatment in the experimental tanks.

Devastated parents sparked a government inquiry, headed by Lord Hunt, in 1998 after claiming they were never told of the incubator risks. Lord Hunt published a damning report earlier this month and criticised the hospital for keeping parents in the dark and failing to monitor the research adequately.

However, a separate General Medical Council investigation into claims that parents' signature were forged on consent forms has still not been completed - two years after it began.

Angry relatives are now urging police to move the inquiry forward.

Trials of the Continuous Negative Extrathoracic Pressure (CNEP) ventilators began at the hospital in 1989. Of the 122 children treated by CNEP 28 died and 15 suffered brain damage.

Lord Hunt's report criticised the hospital for failing to warn parents of the research risks and inadequate supervision.

Parents welcomed the government findings but have expressed anger over the GMC delay.

Debbie Henshall, 35, lost one baby daughter, Stacey, during the trial and another, Sophie, suffered brain damage.

Debbie, of Newcastle-Under-Lyme, said: 'The Hunt report was welcome - but our fight is not over.

'Five parents claim the signatures on incubator consent forms are not theirs - and they have the evidence to prove it.

'The GMC inquiry began two years ago but we have no idea whether its report is weeks, months, or even years away. It's a farce.'

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said: 'We are liaising closely with the GMC over the forgery allegations. We have also studied the Lord Hunt report which raises complex and sensitive issues about medical ethics and hospital administration.'

A GMC spokesman said: 'Our policy is not to comment on ongoing investigations. However, we do liaise with complainants and they are welcome to contact us at any time.'

Mervyn Gamage, of North Staffordshire Hospital, said: 'Lord Hunt concluded that, while our research procedures in the early 1990s didn't match what we now consider best practice, they were in line with guidelines at that time. We have already made considerable progress in raising standards.

'We are co-operating fully with the GMC inquiry.'
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Author:Larner, Tony
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:May 21, 2000
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