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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 12:42 GMT
Organ scandal boss is sacked
Hilary Rowland
Hilary Rowland was found guilty of misconduct
The chief executive of Alder Hey Children's Hospital has been sacked over her role in the organ retention scandal.

Officials said "there was no alternative" but to terminate the employment of Hilary Rowland, who was found guilty of misconduct.

The move follows a three-day disciplinary hearing which concluded the former hospital boss had brought both the Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust and herself into disrepute.

The government ordered an investigation into practices at the hospital after stockpiles of organs were discovered in a laboratory in October 1999.

Parents ended up leaving more of their children on a dusty shelf in a dirty old basement than they buried or cremated

Pauline O'Hare, of parent support group Pity II

In a statement, a Royal Liverpool Children's NHS Trust spokesman said: "On Monday the non-executive members of the trust board met to discuss the implications of the panel's decision to find Hilary Rowland guilty of misconduct.

"It was resolved to accept the disciplinary panel's decision and that, in view of the panel's decision, there was no alternative but regretfully to terminate the employment of the chief executive summarily in accordance with the terms of her contract of employment.

"Ms Rowland has been advised of this decision."

Organs had been removed from thousands of dead children at the Liverpool hospital over seven years without their parents' consent.

In some cases, it was years after their child's death that parents learned organs had been kept and many families held multiple funerals as lungs, brains, hearts and other organs were returned to them.

A 600-page report published in January this year and chaired by Michael Redfern, QC, said "the pain caused to the parents by this dreadful sequence of events" was "unforgivable".

Serious complaint

Ms Rowland was criticised in the report after claiming to have had no knowledge of the full extent of the scandal when she should have.

She was also found to have failed to act upon a serious complaint from a parent.

Ms Rowland went on "extended leave" in March 2000 and was suspended on her 85,000 salary in January 2001 following the publication of the Redfern report.

Pauline O'Hare, of parent support group Pity II, described the sacking as "the only possible, just, decision".

She said the chief executive could have stopped pathologist Professor Dick van Velzen, the cot death expert responsible for taking most of the stored organs.

Professor van Velzen
Professor van Velzen was reported to Ms Rowland in 1994

Mrs O'Hare said: "Professor van Velzen was reported to Ms Rowland in 1994 for exceeding his authority in a post mortem.

"If she had reported him to the GMC, then the whole thing would have come out sooner and the family of every child who died after 1994 would have been spared the grief.

"Parents ended up leaving more of their children on a dusty shelf in a dirty old basement than they buried or cremated.

"Sacking Ms Rowland is the only possible, just, decision, when you look at her role in the affair."

A group of MPs have called on the government to introduce a code of conduct for hospitals to prevent a repeat of the Alder Hey scandal.

'Significant concern'

Labour MP Robert Wareing for Liverpool West Derby told the Commons that parents had been left traumatised.

He said: "There needs to be a code of conduct to regulate not just the doctors, we need an over-arching system which will regulate all in the National Health Service and include the administrators, who must be made accountable and subject to regular scrutiny."

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Health
Anger over Alder Hey 'whitewash'
15 Mar 01 | Health
Alder Hey doctors reported to GMC
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