Families tell of their pain over inquest delays
BEREAVED families have spoken of the difficult wait to find out how their loved ones died after a string of inquests were put on hold.
The post mortems of 26 people have been called into question after concerns were raised over senior Manchester doctor Khalid Ahmed.
A coroner held a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether inquests into the 26 deaths should be referred to a public inquiry. The relatives of those who died were invited to address North Manchester Coroner Joanne Kearsley.
She will now decide whether to refer the case to the relevant Secretary of State for an official public review.
Dr Ahmed’s legal team told her that a public inquiry would be ‘unnecessary’ and ‘premature’.
During the hearing at The Old Police Station in Heywood, families gave emotional testimonies about the effect of the ongoing investigation.
Lindsay Schofield’s father Eric Norton is one of 26 cases up for referral.
Addressing the packedout hearing, she said: “All throughout this process, we cannot settle and have not been able to settle.
“As a family, we support a referral for a public inquiry and we accept a further delay in seeking justice.”
The family of Steven O’Gormley said they were prepared to continue their wait if it means finding out the truth.
“The post mortem was our last chance of finding out what actually happened to Steven,” they said. “None of us can settle. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes now as long as there inquiry deaths.”
Representing Dr Ahmed, Gerry Boyle QC said that a public inquiry would be ‘unnecessary’ and ‘premature’.
Addressing family members, Ms Kearsley said: “Many of you have been in court before me over the course of the last few months.
“For a number of you here it has been a difficult and drawn out process.
“In the midst of this are your loved ones and they have not been forgotten they are at the heart of this process.”
She is due to issue a written decision as to whether to refer the case for a public inquiry within 10 days.
The Observer previously reported how concerns were raised about Dr Ahmed’s work around 18 months ago by Ms Kearsley. Until earlier this year, Dr Ahmed had worked as a consultant histopathologist for Pennine Acute NHS Trust, a senior medical role in is a complete into all the which he helped to diagnose patients.
At the time, he also performed a private service conducting post mortems for the North Manchester’s coroner’s office.
Following concerns, Pennine Acute began auditing the quality of his NHS work, while Professor Simon Kim Suvarna, a consultant histopathologist at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, was called in to look into a sample of Dr Ahmed’s autopsies for the coroner.
Prof Suvarna’s resulting review of 38 post mortems referred to ‘multiple and significant deficiencies with Dr Ahmed’s reports that exist at many levels’.
The coroner has put 26 inquests on hold.
Dr Ahmed, who qualified as a doctor in 1989 in Bangalore, India, joined Pennine Acute Trust in October 2006 and in January 2007 started carrying out post mortems for the coroner.
This was private work paid for by the coroner and not overseen by his trust employers.
●●Joanne Kearsley, senior coroner for Manchester North, has raised concerns over the work of Dr Khalid Ahmed