Fergusons demand independent probe of whistleblower claims that Raychel evidence was ‘disposed of’

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The parents of Raychel Ferguson, who died after being given the wrong level of sodium for dehydration after an appendix operation in Altnagelvin Hospital in 2001, have called for an independent probe of fresh whistleblower claims relating to their daughter’s case.

Solicitors for Ray and Marie Ferguson, who have fought for the last 17 years for a full explanation of the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death, wrote to the Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths (IHRD) this week, after a whistleblower claimed information relevant to Raychel’s case had been ‘disposed of.’

The claim is outlined in a series of correspondence between the Directorate of Legal Services for the Health and Social Care sector and Mr. John O’Hara QC’s, IHRD, which was exchanged between October 10 and December 20 last and has been newly published on the Inquiry’s website.

Mr. Desmond Doherty, who is representing the Ferguson family, has written to Mr. O’Hara, explaining his clients have no objection to his final report being published at the end of this month as planned.

However, he said the Fergusons will also be calling on the PSNI to investigate the whistleblower claims.

“Our clients are of the view that this is a matter of great public importance and interest, so that allegations that evidence has deliberately been destroyed and withheld from a Public Inquiry following the death of a nine years old child, can be independently investigated properly and fully.”

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board, however, has responded: “A number of concerns were raised with the Chief Executive of the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) under the HSC Whistleblowing policy.

“A full and thorough investigation was carried out by a three person panel (two of the members were outside of the HSCB) which found no evidence to support the claims of any ‘deliberate attempt to remove evidence’ or any ‘deliberate attempt to destroy evidence or equipment contrary to the instructions regarding the need to preserve evidence for further consideration by the inquiry.’

“The HSCB is confident that no evidence was withheld from the Inquiry.”

The Fergusons do not believe this HSCB probe went far enough.

Mr. Doherty wrote: “A so-called investigation by the Board is completely, in our client’s view, without any merit or credibility, independence or impartiality.”

Raychel died on June 10, 2001, from hyponatraemia - a disturbance caused by a shortage of sodium - after being treated in Altnagelvin.