Medical director says trust was legally advised not to contact bereaved family

Dr Kelly leaving Banbridge court house

Dr Kelly leaving Banbridge court house

By Niall McCracken

THE former medical director of the Sperrin Lakeland Trust has said that the legal advice given to the trust was not to reach out to the family of toddler Lucy Crawford after her death.

At yesterday’s hearing Dr James Kelly told the Hyponatraemia Inquiry that it was a “glaring omission” that the parents of 17-month-old Lucy were not interviewed as part of the review into her death.

Speaking at today’s hearing Dr Kelly said that when he suggested to representatives of the trust and the Directorate of Legal Services (DLS) – who provide legal services for the health and social care sector that they should reach out to the family through mediation the response "twice over was no.”

For more background information on the issues being examined by the Hyponatraemia Inquiry please click here.

Dr Kelly: We were in the middle of litigation and I was concerned about the on-going evidence that we were accruing, and as we discussed yesterday the fact that the family were not involved or informed. So I raised that concern in 2002 with the trust and with DLS, seeking an opportunity to go to the family. But we were in active litigation at that time. I suggested to DLS at the end of 2002 that, you know, we would need to settle this and talk to the family. I even used and quoted a phrase at the end of 2002, Lord Justice Woolf’s, I think it’s called ‘reaching for justice’, which was a concept of mediation at the time, that I’d heard in presentations and I said to the trust legal team ‘is there any chance of reaching out to the family through mediation, even if the litigation isn’t closed?’ And I can share with you the response twice over was no.

The chairman (Mr Justice O’Hara): Can I take you back on this a bit doctor; you’re saying in 2002 that you wanted to speak to the family. When you were asked by Mr Wolfe yesterday and this morning why the family wasn’t spoken to as part of the original review, you said that wasn’t really the practice at the time. We’re talking about a two year gap between 2000 and 2002.

Dr Kelly: Yes.

The chairman: You also said to me in 2000 there were no guidelines and that you were really following common sense.

Dr Kelly: Yes.

The chairman: If you’re following common sense and there aren’t any guidelines, where does the convention come from that you don’t speak to the family? Because you rely on that convention as excusing the failure of the internal review not to discuss with the family.

Dr Kelly: Chairman the position I would go back to was that the intention was to speak to the family

The chairman: After the event?

Dr Kelly: After the event

The chairman: But not as part of the review?

Dr Kelly: Yes

The chairman: If there’s no template and no guidelines which militate against speaking to the family, particularly as they appear to have relevant information to give, why not speak to them?

Dr Kelly: I agree. Looking back it seems absolutely obvious that we should have done that.

The chairman: Sorry when you said it seems obvious looking back that we should have done it you also said before that there wasn’t convention at the time.

Dr Kelly: No formal template.

The chairman: Exactly.

Dr Kelly: You’re absolutely right.

The chairman: So you don’t need hindsight to say, we should have spoken to the family.

Dr Kelly: Correct.

Following Dr Kelly’s evidence the chairman asked Dr Kelly’s legal counsel, Mr Samuel Green, if his client’s evidence was outlining that he did raise the idea of engaging with the family and was “steered away from it.” Mr Green confirmed that this was the case.