A doctor has been cleared of assaulting a young girl in her care prior to an operation.

Consultant anaesthetist Dr Ola Shalaby was cleared of assaulting the girl in the run up to her surgery at University Hospital North Tees towards the end of last year.

She was accused of forcing a mask used to provide air and anaesthetic onto the child’s face and grabbing her by the neck, but a judge said he was not satisfied this had happened based on the evidence.

The girl’s mum said after the trial she was disappointed by the verdict adding her daughter had gone through “a year of hell”. The young girl, from County Durham, cannot be named for legal reasons.

District Judge Steven Hood told the doctor “I am not satisfied that the crown can satisfy me that you are guilty of this offence and therefore I dismiss the charge against you, and I find you not guilty.”

The court heard from four witnesses who said they saw Dr Shalaby’s hand on the girl’s neck – the girl, her mum, and two paediatric nurses – and four who said they had not – Dr Shalaby herself, another anaesthetist, an operating department practitioner and a registrar.

The Northern Echo: Consultant anaesthetist Ola Shalaby has been cleared of assaulting a young patient.Consultant anaesthetist Ola Shalaby has been cleared of assaulting a young patient. (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

The doctor took to the witness stand at Teesside Magistrates Court to give evidence in her defence on Tuesday (November 15).

Dr Shalaby told the court: “What’s in my mindset is a young anxious girl in hospital waiting for an emergency operation.”

Asked whether she had reached around the girl and grabbed her neck, as per the allegations, she replied: “No, I didn’t”.

When her defence counsel, Peter Lownds, probed the doctor on whether she had ever, or would ever do that to a patient she replied: “No, never”.

She also denied claims heard on Tueday (November 14) that there was a “frustrated” atmosphere in the operating theatre.

The Northern Echo: University Hospital of North Tees, where the incident was alleged to have happened.University Hospital of North Tees, where the incident was alleged to have happened. (Image: NORTHERN ECHO)

The court was told staff had spent “some time” reassuring the girl into theatre before attempting to get her to hold the mask to her face. Her mum, who was in the room at the time had said Dr Shalaby appeared “frustrated” by her daughter’s anxiety over the surgery and anaesthetic process.

She said it would be normal practice to hold the mask onto a patient “after the first or second breath” as a patient went under, but the trial could not conclude whether she had received consent from the patient to do so.

Although Dr Shalaby was unable to say for sure what she had done with her left hand, the one it was claimed had grabbed the girl’s neck, in a police statement she said she had used it to lift up the side rails on the girl’s bed.

The Northern Echo: Ola ShalabyOla Shalaby (Image: CHRIS BOOTH)

Summarising his case prosecutor Michael Bunch said: “The crown’s case is that the defendant came to the end of her tether with [the girl]”, claiming her actions had mounted to common assault.

Speaking after the trial’s conclusion the girl’s mother said: “I stand by what I said in court – I was right in front of my daughter.

"I heard her say, 'no, I will put [the mask] on myself'.

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“She’s had her schooling disrupted. She now has anxiety she didn’t have been. We have been through counselling.

“We’ve had a year of hell – it’s been horrendous.”

A spokesperson for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “Our focus now will be on working with colleagues across our organisation and other key partners to review process to ensure that we embed learning from this case.

“We continue to dedicate to safe quality care for our patients.”