Northern Ireland

Hyponatraemia inquiry: 'Regret' over final report delay

Hyponatraemia inquiry
Image caption The Hyponatraemia inquiry was set up in 2004 and 179 witnesses gave evidence at Banbridge Courthouse in County Down

The chairman of a 10-year-long inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland has said he "regrets" a further delay to his final report.

The Hyponatraemia inquiry was set up in 2004, following allegations hospital staff had made fatal errors when they administered intravenous fluids.

Hyponatraemia is a shortage of sodium in blood, and can sometimes be fatal.

Chairman John O'Hara QC had hoped to publish his report this year, but has said that is now unlikely to happen.

'Demanding and meticulous'

"I am aware that everyone involved would like to see my report published as soon as possible. I share that view," Mr O'Hara said.

"However, I have a duty to ensure that my report is both full and fair."

The chairman said he had taken evidence from 179 witnesses and added that he hoped the "demanding and meticulous nature of the report process will be appreciated".

He said he would "continue to work apace" and added that by early December he expected to be in a position to confirm a future publication date.

Mr O'Hara, who is now a High Court judge, has been given the task of directly investigating the deaths of three of the children involved - Adam Strain, Claire Roberts and Raychel Ferguson.

He is also investigated the events following the deaths of the other two children - Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell - to determine to what extent there was a failure to learn lessons from the fatalities.

'Difficult'

The inquiry has been subjected to a series of lengthy delays and adjournments over the last decade.

Mr O'Hara's latest statement said: "I am aware that it is difficult for everyone affected by the inquiry to continue to await my report and I regret this delay, but I can reassure all that I am working to achieve a fair and accurate reflection of all the evidence before me."

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