Mistakes were made over human tissue storage at hospital

Hospital bosses have admitted that mistakes were made over the storing of human tissue samples.

Monday, 11th September 2017, 5:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 10:53 am
South Tyneside District Hospital is at the centre of the inquiry.
South Tyneside District Hospital is at the centre of the inquiry.

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust has apologised after human tissue samples were stored at South Tyneside District Hospital for longer than necessary. It says it is now working with Northumbria and Cleveland Police to reassure people that mistakes will not happen again.

Forty-one families were affected, including 13 in the Cleveland force area.

A spokesman for the Trust said: “South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust fully acknowledges that there was a failure to appropriately follow national guidance on the disposal of tissue samples which was issued by the HTA in 2006 and, following the lifting of the moratorium by the Department of Health in July 2007, there were missed opportunities for the Trust to initiate the process to contact families from July 2008 and arrange for sensitive disposal of the remaining forensic samples at the hospital.”

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The human tissue samples had been retained either under police or coroners powers. They related specifically to Post-Mortem Examinations carried out between 1990 and 2000 on behalf of the police or coroner services by a former Home Office registered pathologist who also, at the time, worked at South Tyneside District Hospital.

South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and the police have been working together to understand why storage continued at the hospital when the samples were no longer needed for either police or coronial purposes and after the introduction of new regulations about the disposal of human tissue samples which came into force in September 2006.

Executive medical director at South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Shahid Wahid, said letters had been sent out to the affected families.

He said families with any questions are invited to contact the Trust.

A spokesperson for Northumbria Police and Cleveland Police said: “This has been a distressing process for the families of those involved and we have tried our very best to ensure that it has been dealt with as sensitively as possible.

“We had no knowledge of the storage and retention of the human tissue held by South Tyneside NHS Hospital. On learning of the existence of the retained samples, specially trained officers have worked to identify, trace and speak to the families of those affected.

“Both of our organisations fully recognise the importance of carefully managing the retention and storage of human tissue samples collected for investigative purposes to ensure they are obtained, retained and disposed of, in line with the Human Tissue Act.”