The Sunday Post (Newcastle)

‘A scandal of this magnitude requires a public inquiry. It is not good enough’

- By Marion Scott

A top advocate is calling for a public inquiry into the audiology scandal which left 23,000 children at risk.

Laura Wray, who specialise­s in medical malpractic­e and major civil litigation cases, also warned NHS Lothian could be failing in its duty of candour unless it sees all of the thousands of patients placed at risk because of widespread blunders in the health board’s audiology department.

A report by independen­t experts found children were misdiagnos­ed over decades. Some lost the opportunit­y to be fitted with cochlear implants, suffering lifelong consequenc­es.

After initially declining to say how many families were contacted, NHS Lothian told The Sunday Post that it got in touch with 123 patients, with 90 attending for assessment. A total of 23 children required changes to care and management plans.

Wray described the litany of failures by NHS Lothian as “shocking”.

She said: “I do not believe NHS Lothian have fulfilled their responsibi­lities under duty of candour unless they contact each of the 23,000 who used their audiology services throughout every year that problems existed.

“Writing to just a small number of people to warn them is just not good enough when so many others passed through a service which has been found to have so many issues and areas of concern over many years.

“It’s shocking to realise thousands of children and families may be struggling to cope with the consequenc­es of this catastroph­e on their own, unaware that mistakes and misdiagnos­is were so widespread at this audiology department.

“A scandal of this magnitude requires a public inquiry and government ministers should be giving that undertakin­g.”

On Thursday, MSP Miles Briggs challenged First Minister Humza Yousaf to agree to a public inquiry.

Following complaints to the Public Services Ombudsman over a child being misdiagnos­ed and suffering lifelong consequenc­es, independen­t experts were called to carry out inquiries into NHS Lothian’s audiology services.

They found widescale blunders, including deaf children misdiagnos­ed as

Leading advocate Laura Wray with her severely disabled son, Frankie. being able to hear or having autism, and mistakes in vital tests for babies that should have led to some receiving cochlear implants.

During one official audit of around 1,000 cases, audiology experts found only 11% of cases – just 120 – raised no concerns.

Auditors said staff failed to spot “red flags” even when normal behavioura­l testing was significan­tly at odds with the results of the auditory brainstem response carried out on babies.

A further audit recognised even more children with significan­t concerns.

A Scotland-wide review also showed other health boards with problems.

Wray, whose son Frankie, 25, was born with a rare genetic condition that causes severe disabiliti­es, said: “The overwhelmi­ng percentage of failure found within sample cases at NHS Lothian clearly show how serious the situation is, and just how important it is that all the 23,000 at risk must be contacted and assessed.

“I know just how hard it is for parents and families trying to access the support, health and education services their children need, particular­ly at a time when resources are being cut to the bone.

“As well as being a mum who has had to fight to get support, I sit on the boards of organisati­ons concerned with services for the disabled. Far too often the most vulnerable children lose out on the opportunit­ies which allow them to live happy, fulfilled lives.

“That is why it is so important that everything possible is done in this disturbing case to ensure all of these children are given every help and support they need.”

Patrick McGuire, of Thompsons Solicitors, opened a helpline for parents. He said: “This monumental scandal has been compounded by the coverup. If all 23,000 were to make a claim this case could reach £1 billion, one of the biggest Scotland has ever seen.”

Briggs said: “A crisis of this magnitude deserves a public inquiry so the public are assured everything that can be done is being done.

“If NHS Lothian need extra resources to allow them to contact and assess each of the 23,000 at risk, then the government should be offering that.”

Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “We have been nothing but open and transparen­t since identifyin­g clear failings within our children’s audiology services. NHS Lothian has worked closely with affected families, the National Deaf Children’s Society, other charities and relevant profession­al groups such as teachers, speech and language therapists and GPs, to ensure that continued wraparound support is available for children and their families.”

She said families were regularly updated, along with the government, MSPs and the public to “show the robust processes that were in place” and said claims that “any informatio­n was withheld or that families were deliberate­ly overlooked” were “wholly untrue”.

Gillies added: “All recommenda­tions outlined in both BAA (British Academy of Audiology) audit reports have been completed.”

The Scottish Government said: “We must recognise that many families were badly let down by these services in the past.”

Need support? Call the Thompsons helpline on 0800 0891 331.

Closing-down signs and boarded-up shop fronts are familiar sights in tired town centres throughout the country.

With shopping habits changing, working from home remaining popular, and the cost-ofliving crisis continuing to grip households, the future for town centres looks increasing­ly bleak as footfall declines.

Innovative ideas are required to breathe new life into local hubs, and that is exactly what Robert and Saskia Singer are doing in Ayr.

The once-vibrant seaside resort hasn’t escaped the high street’s downturn, yet the ambitious father and daughter are making noticeable strides in revitalisi­ng the town, not only by repopulati­ng shuttered stores and providing opportunit­ies for creatives, but also reaching out to the wider community through a blend of baking and art.

Called Narture, the project has so far taken over four premises in Ayr town centre and provided several jobs as well as giving locals access to a range of creative and wellbeing facilities.

Its purpose, Robert and Saskia say, is to bake real bread to earn the ‘dough’ to fund arts projects. More than that, though, it is also revitalisi­ng a sense of community and feeling of pride, demonstrat­ing a decline does not need to be terminal. They are under no illusions about the amount of work still to be done, but they can demonstrat­e signs of hope.

Saskia said: “My dad and I are both artists – I studied fine art in Dundee, graduating in 2019, and he studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art as a mature student, graduating in 2000. We’ve both worked in catering and hospitalit­y throughout our lives.

“We were living together during lockdown and during that time we decided to fuse our experience­s with food and art to generate income from food to fund arts projects. We called it Narture – a play on nature, nurture and art, with the tagline being ‘nurture and art is second nature’.

“Dad had some space in the town he was renovating, so we decided to start making and selling bread from there.”

The sourdough bakery opened in June 2020 and became successful enough that they were soon able to open a cafe in the old tourist informatio­n office across the road, where they sell not only bread but a range of items which are all made in-house.

“The objective is to create a circular economy,” Robert said. “We’re trying to make a space where literally everything is for

Robert and Saskia Singer want other town centres to follow their lead.

sale – from the bread and cheese to cutlery to the tables and chairs – in a makers’ collective.”

The bakery now employs 10 people – made up of creative art students and graduates – and supplies local businesses and hotels with bread, as well as donating to the local foodbank.

Narture’s rise has allowed Robert and Saskia to take over a further two formerly empty premises in the town centre, including Ayr’s original library, which has been transforme­d into a range of individual artists’ studios – all currently occupied – and a wellbeing studio offering therapies, workshops and retreats.

Robert said: “The whole idea is to create a people’s art school where we can provide the facilities for graduate artists to pass on their skills to the public and to be an inclusive arts organisati­on that makes art accessible to all members of society.

“We’re trying to make bread the focus, using that metaphor for earning income. If we can make an income, we can do whatever we want. We have a five-year plan to be a self-sustaining organisati­on that fundamenta­lly earns basic income from food and beverage.

“Bread is the lowest common denominato­r of food produce made by hand – you can’t hunt it or forage it; you need to make it. Narture is about the making process, the idea of using hands and hearts and minds to create a new economy.

“We are running an enterprise where the co-workers are the collaborat­ors. A people’s art school creates the bridge between creative education and the chasm when studies end and there is no continuum. We pay students the living wage while they are studying and, when they graduate, they can be paid up to but no more than double the London living wage, while artists, writers, musicians will be paid their union rates for doing projects.”

While the initiative has been a boon for Ayr’s creative minds, the wider impact is being felt across the town, not least in the empty shops being given new purpose and enticing people back onto the high street to browse.

“We’ve been proactive in making places active, and rather than having derelict spaces, we are giving them a visual context,” Robert continued. “We have exhibition­s at the bottom of the high street in shop fronts.

“We have also been helping people to understand that while reimaging town centres won’t be a quick fix, we can repurpose shops and spaces.

“The point of the project is to create a model, because each town will have to reinvent itself as its own unique selling point. We can show how a town centre can be regenerate­d.

“I think it’s gaining traction as we’ve developed it, and generally it’s well received. It’s been getting recognitio­n from people who are reluctant to come to town centres now. Businesses have to be proactive in creating things you can’t buy online and to give people a reason and purpose to come to town centres.” Robert, who says

 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom