Fury at blundering report on boy’s care

Andrea Duggan with Vinny, now aged three, at their home in Burton Agnes
Andrea Duggan with Vinny, now aged three, at their home in Burton Agnes
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A FAMILY has condemned a health regulator over blunders in a key report investigating how a doctor at a Yorkshire hospital treated a baby who became critically ill.

Hospital bosses have already admitted mistakes in the care of Vinny Duggan in the days after his delivery at Doncaster Royal Infirmary when he was diagnosed with a heart murmur.

But his parents have been incensed over the obstacles they have faced trying to hold doctors and nurses accountable over his care, which saw the family discharged home only for Vinny’s condition to deteriorate, and then wait five hours to be seen at the hospital when they returned for help.

Now they have been further angered by errors in a report drawn up by an expert appointed by the General Medical Council (GMC) to review the handling of Vinny’s case by a junior doctor, which at one point refers to the wrong hospital, contains a series of inaccurate details and even fails to answer a key question posed by the regulator itself.

The GMC used the report and other evidence to close the case against the doctor who assessed Vinny after his birth, deciding no action was necessary.

Yesterday his mother Andrea said she was concerned the problems with the investigation could indicate a wider issue.

She said: “We are very angry and upset that the GMC has failed Vinny again, and are surprised that such mistakes are allowed to happen at this level and stage of the process. The GMC has clearly failed to review, comment and consider all the evidence that exists within their report.”

The family’s MP, John Healey, has raised previous problems in the handling of the case with Prime Minister David Cameron and his pressure last year forced Ministers to agree to legal changes closing a loophole preventing the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which regulates nurses, reinvestigating cases after it initially ruled there was no case to answer against two nurses involved.

The Wentworth and Dearne MP said the powers and systems of both the NMC and the GMC needed an overhaul.

“The report is muddled with basic factual errors and astounding mistakes like getting the name of the hospital wrong which undermines any confidence that the family can have in the judgment the GMC has come to,” Mr Healey said.

“The Duggan family’s experience, not just of the GMC but the NMC, highlights how flawed the system of professional investigation and handling of complaints for patients is.

“The GMC cannot expect people to have confidence in their system if they base their judgments on such basic errors and mistakes.”

Vinny, now three, has a combination of heart, lung and stomach problems which doctors say is unique in the UK. He also suffered a significant post-birth brain injury early in his life which experts believe could be linked to oxygen deprivation.

His family complained to the GMC about checks carried out on him by a junior doctor following his birth. He was diagnosed with a heart murmur but after two days his family were told he could go home.

They returned two days later after it became clear he was deteriorating but were left waiting five hours after Vinny was wrongly classed as a non-urgent case.

The family have been angered over mistakes in the report which refers at one point to “Gloucester Infirmary”, contains conflicting information and fails to answer a key question asked by the GMC about the standard of record-keeping by the doctor involved.

The GMC said it did not comment on individual cases.

In a letter to Mr Healey, who had complained about the discrepancies, Anthony Omo, director of its fitness to practise directorate, said he could “see the force” in the points made by the MP.

He said the expert instructed in the case “had all he needed to form an opinion about whether the doctor’s actions were reasonable in the circumstances” before the report was handed to case examiners who made the decision to close the complaint based on the report and other evidence.

“I am sorry if in completing our investigation of the doctor’s fitness to practise, we have not been able to resolve all of Mr and Mrs Duggan’s outstanding concerns but the in the absence of an issue of impaired fitness to practise we are not able to investigate further,” he added.