Stoke & Staffordshire

Stafford Hospital inquiry into twins' deaths

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Media captionMaggie Oldham: "Preliminary results suggest the twins died because of their prematurity."

An NHS hospital trust has set up an independent investigation into the deaths of two-day-old twin boys.

Alfie and Harry McQuillin, who were born at Stafford Hospital, died on 1 November 2010.

A member of staff has been suspended, but police said preliminary post-mortem tests suggested the twins died as a result of being born prematurely.

The twins' parents, Phillip McQuillin and Ami Dean, said they were "deeply upset and distressed".

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Antony Sumara said everyone at the hospital was "absolutely devastated".

The hospital is the subject of a public inquiry into previous failings.

The twin boys were named by South Staffordshire Coroner's Office, which said an inquest into their deaths had been opened and adjourned. Full post-mortem results are awaited.

In a statement, Mr McQuillin and Ms Dean said: "We are deeply upset and distressed by the deaths of Alfie and Harry.

"A full investigation into the circumstances has been launched, which should now be allowed to run its course."

'Neutral act'

Mr Sumara said: "Our deepest sympathy and our thoughts are with the parents and their loved ones at this most difficult time.

"We have commissioned a full external investigation into the events while the twins were at our hospital.

Image caption Antony Sumara said an independent doctor was leading the investigation

"This is under way and is being led by an independent paediatric doctor.

"At present we have suspended one member of staff."

The hospital added the suspension was a "neutral act" to allow an investigation to take place.

The hospital would not comment on the exact circumstances surrounding the boys' deaths.

The babies were transferred from Stafford Hospital to North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary, where they died.

Staffordshire Police said the babies were born prematurely at Stafford on 30 October.

It said it was preparing a report on the deaths for the coroner but the deaths were not being treated as suspicious.

A spokeswoman for the force said: "We have been liaising with hospital staff, and with the twins' parents who have our deepest sympathies.

"Post-mortem examinations by a Home Office pathologist proved inconclusive and further tests will now be carried out.

"However, preliminary results suggest that the twins died because of their prematurity rather than as a direct result of any medical treatment."

The hospital is currently the subject of a public inquiry into care failings.

'Awful' tragedy

The inquiry, which began on Monday, is investigating "appalling" care which came to light after 400 more people died there between 2005 and 2008 than would be expected.

A 2009 Healthcare Commission report listed several failings including receptionists assessing patients arriving at A&E, a shortage of nurses and senior doctors and pressure on staff to meet targets.

Image caption The babies were born prematurely on 30 October

Maggie Oldham, chief operating officer at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said the hospital had made "significant improvement" as its mortality rates were now in the top 10% in the country.

Commenting further on the babies' deaths, she said she would refer people to the opening statement made by inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC.

She said he had indicated: "Inevitably there will continue to be incidents which are cause for concern for Stafford and other hospitals as well.

"Such incidents do not in themselves show that there has been no improvement, anymore than the absence of such incidents would prove everything has been put right."

Peter Walsh, chief executive of patient safety charity Action Against Medical Accidents, said of the case: "This is one of those awful, awful tragedies.

"It is impossible to say whether it has got anything to do with systemic problems at the trust or whether it is a tragic one-off."

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