A High Court judge yesterday approved a scheme expected to end in a multi-million pound payout to hundreds of children misdiagnosed with or wrongly treated for epilepsy by a Midland doctor.
But parents are outraged Dr Andrew Holton has been allowed to retrain at New Cross Hospital before a hearing by the General Medical Council (GMC) has decided whether he is fit to practise.
More than 500 children were wrongly treated or diagnosed by Dr Holton, while he was a consultant paediatrician at Leicester Royal Infirmary in the 1990s.
He was suspended from the hospital in June 2001, following a review by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
During yesterday's hearing at Nottingham Crown Court, Mrs Justice Cox approved an innovative scheme to speed up the compensation process for families and patients - with 11 settlements due to be approved this week. These compensation awards are believed to range from approximately #4,000 to #48,000.
The University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust's representative, Jean Ritchie QC, issued a public apology on the organisation's behalf.
She said: "I want to apologise publicly for the suffering, trials and tribulations that so many children, parents and carers have gone through as a result of Dr Holton's misdiagnosis or mistreatment over a period of 11 years.
"I must go on to recognise that the trust did not listen to warnings as it should have done and did not act as quickly as it should have done."
Solicitors representing the patients' families and the NHS devised an "alternative dispute resolution" scheme which will avoid years of complex court hearings.
A panel of experts will consider each case and lawyers will then use their assessment to value the claim.
The process was devised by legal firms Freeth Cartwright and Alexander Harris, on behalf of the families, and Browne Jacobson, who represented the NHS Litigation Authority.
Richard Follis, of Birmingham-based law firm Alexander Harris - which also acted for the Leicester Epilepsy Concern Parents and Carers Group - said: "Families have already waited a long time for resolution to their claims. Traditional litigation would have taken a considerable amount of time and cost."
He added: "However, the parents are incensed by the fact that Dr Holton is still under consideration for his performance than for his mistakes.
"They're also incensed the GMC has refused to take heed of their numerous complaints and grievances. They feel their views are not being considered."
As a result of Dr Holton's diagnosis and treatment, many children were placed on potent cocktails of drugs, including anti-convulsants and steroids.
In some cases this led to long-term side effects, such as early onset of puberty and disruptive behaviour, while underlying medical conditions such as Asperger's Syndrome were missed.
But last night the West Midlands Deanery - responsible for overseeing medical and dental training in the region - defended its position over Dr Holton's retraining.
Dr Andrew Whitehouse, director of hospital and specialist education, said Dr Holton posed "absolutely no risk" to patients in his current role.
He said: "When he was a consultant, he would have been practising on his own. As a specialist registrar he's working under close supervision and is assessed yearly."
Dr Holton is due to finish his training in 2007/08 - following more placements at other West Midlands hospitals.
If successful he will be qualified to practise as a consultant in neurophysiology - which would involve working with epileptics.
Dr Whitehouse added: "In the past he practised as a consultant neurologist, which involved diagnosing and treating patients. What he's doing now is neurophysiology, which involves investigations not treatment."
David Loughton, chief executive of the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust - which runs New Cross Hospital - emphasised the doctor is not working with young patients.
He said: "Dr Andrew Holton has, since November 2004, been working as a specialist registrar at New Cross Hospital as part of his re-training in clinical neurophysiology. As a trainee he is closely supervised by consultants."
The GMC will reconvene in September to decide whether he can continue to practise.