Hyponatraemia inquiry: High Court rights declaration sought

Claire Roberts The inquiry wants to examine the notes of 25 people who were patients at the same time as Claire Roberts

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The inquiry into the deaths of five children is seeking a High Court declaration that would allow it to see the records of 25 hospital patients.

The inquiry wants to examine the notes of some patients of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children in 1996.

It is asking for a declaration that the Belfast Health Trust would not breach human rights law by providing the documents.

It is part of the inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths.

The patients were in the Allen and Cherry Tree wards alongside nine-year-old Claire Roberts who died in 1996.

The medical notes will be used to help establish the availability of Claire's consultant in the lead up to her death.

Claire had been admitted to the RBHSC with a suspected stomach bug, but her condition deteriorated in the hospital and she died two days later on 23 October.

The inquiry, which is sitting in Banbridge, has already heard that she was overdosed with medication and excess fluids.

The issue of fluid management is central to the hyponatraemia inquiry.

It is hoped her fellow patients' notes, which only recently emerged, will help shed light on whether the consultant paediatrician Dr Heather Steen was easily available for Claire if needed, particularly by the junior doctors.

The inquiry has been adjourned while the notes are sought but plans to resume on 8 October.

The inquiry is examining the deaths of three children, Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson.

But it is also investigating the events following the deaths of Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell. All of the children died in hospital.

In the case of four of the children, the inquest verdict on their death stated that hyponatraemia was a factor which contributed to their deaths.

Hyponatraemia describes an abnormally low level of sodium in the blood which occurs when fluid is not administered properly.

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