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Health bosses sorry for keeping human samples and organs without permission; TISSUE STORED IN HOSPITAL FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS.

Byline: MICHAEL MUNCASTER Reporter michael.muncaster@trinitymirror.com @MichaelMjourno

HEALTH bosses today apologised over the Tyneside organ retention scandal.

Police contacted 41 families after an audit at South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields in 2015 found the samples had been taken following unexplained deaths.

Some grief-stricken families were left angered and claimed their relatives' organs had been taken and stored without their knowledge for more than 20 years.

Following an internal investigation, the South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has now admitted it failed to follow national guidelines to appropriately dispose of the samples.

The trust said it "missed opportunities" to contact the families from July 2008 and again failed to take any "decisive action" three years later when the samples were identified during another audit.

Health bosses admitted emails had been exchanged about the samples at the time but it was not clear why no action had been taken.

Meanwhile, the trust said it has also contacted a further five families after it found samples of non-viable foetal tissue had been unnecessarily kept at the hospital since 2012.

The investigation found they had been retained despite the trust having previously agreed cremation or burial arrangements with the families.

The trust's executive medical director Dr Shahid Wahid said: "On behalf of the trust I would like to express our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected and for the distress and angst which has undoubtedly been caused.

"We have worked closely with colleagues at Northumbria and Cleveland Police, local coroners and the Human Tissue Authority throughout and have welcomed their guidance and support to conclude this investigation as sensitively as possible for all concerned.

"There is now a recognised collective responsibility amongst all organisations to deal effectively with human tissue samples which unfortunately was not in place at the time of these events many years ago.

"Our review has resulted in some very clear learning and I would like to firmly reassure people that we have taken all the necessary steps to review and refresh our systems and processes to prevent anything like this happening again."

In 2000, the Secretary of State for Health imposed a ban on all trusts disposing of any samples after a public inquiry uncovered a "poor culture" among a number of trusts.

It was lifted by the Department of Health seven years later and the trust began considering plans to dispose of the samples.

However, no action was taken and the samples were most recently found during a routine inspection by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) in December 2014.

It discovered that the samples related to post-mortem examinations conducted between 1990 to 2000 at various mortuary facilities across the North East.

The trust then began working with a Home Office pathologist in 2015 to examine the samples, before police began contacting the families two years later.

Following the investigation, the trust said it has taken a number of steps to review its internal processes. It includes: | Implementing a new system for tracking and processing of any human tissue samples | A new process for arranging and progressing cremation or burial in line with family wishes | Developing a new guidance workbook and procedure to reduce variability and eliminate any future errors | Holding a service quality improvement event to include all staff involved in the management of any human tissue samples A Northumbria Police and Cleveland Police spokesman said: "This has been a distressing process for the families of those involved and we have tried our very best to ensure that it has been dealt with as sensitively as possible. We had no knowledge of the storage and retention of the human tissue held by South Tyneside NHS Hospital.

"On learning of the existence of the retained samples, specially trained officers have worked to identify, trace and speak to the families of those affected.

"Both of our organisations fully recognise the importance of care-fully managing the retention and storage of human tissue samples collected for investigative purposes to ensure they are obtained, retained and disposed of, in line with the Human Tissue Act."

The HTA said "significant improvements" had been made to the systems governing the retention of human tissue samples.

A HTA spokesman said: "Discovering that human tissue samples are still in storage is clearly an upsetting experience for any families involved and of concern to the wider public. The public can be assured that the risks of this happening again are low. We have worked with South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and the police forces involved to provide them with advice and guidance on what processes to follow for the different items that were discovered.

"Although tissue which has been retained by a police force falls outside the scope of our regulation, our expertise and experience as the regulator for the post-mortem sector, means that we are often asked for advice by the relevant authorities on how to manage this process.

"We have worked with the Home Office to develop police procedures on the management of human tissue, and there are clear standards and guidelines on the disposal of human tissue which HTA licensed establishments, where these samples may be held, are expected to meet and these are available in our updated code of practice on postmortem examinations."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 12, 2017
Words:874
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