Chairman's anger as hyponatraemia inquiry is adjourned again

Claire Roberts The inquiry heard that Claire Roberts was given too much fluid and medication

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The chairman of a public inquiry into the deaths of children in a Belfast hospital has launched a scathing attack after it had to be adjourned.

It is the fourth adjournment of the hyponatraemia public inquiry in less than a year.

The delay is due to late information being produced by doctors working in the Belfast Health Trust.

Inquiry chairman John O'Hara QC said he was "unimpressed" by the failure to provide information.

He said what had been allowed to happen was "beyond defence".

Mr O'Hara apologised to the families saying he had no other option than to delay proceedings that he hopes will resume again on 8 October.

On Monday, a document that could be potentially significant in the inquiry emerged almost a year after the inquiry team asked for the information.

Five children's deaths are being investigated.

On Monday, the inquiry heard that nine-year-old Claire Roberts, who died at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children (RBHSC) in 1996, was overdosed with medication and excess fluids.

Her parents wept as details of her death were read out.

The document could establish the whereabouts of a senior consultant who was allegedly looking after her.

The other children's deaths that are being investigated include Adam Strain who was four when he died at the RBHSC in 1995 and Lucy Crawford, who was 17 months - she was initially treated at the Erne hospital in Enniskillen in 2000.

Nine-year-old Raychel Ferguson died in 2001 after having been initially treated in Altnagelvin hospital and Conor Mitchell was 15 when he died in the RBHSC in 2003.

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

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