Fam­i­lies tell of their pain over in­quest de­lays

Rochdale Observer - - FRONT PAGE - So­phie.halle-richards@trin­i­tymir­ror.com @so­phiehrMEN

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

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