The parents of children misdiagnosed with epilepsy by a Midlands doctor have criticised the GMC for allowing him to continue to practice.

Dr Andrew Holton, who worked at the Leicester Royal Infirmary in the 1990s and treated 20 patients at outreach clinics at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry, was suspended by Leicestershire NHS Trust in May 2001.

A report commissioned by Leicester NHS Trust in 2003 indicated misdiagnosis of more than 618 children and the mistreatment of many more. This number rose significantly as more children were rediagnosed.

A GMC hearing looking at the complaints of 12 parents concluded on Thursday that the doctor could continue to practice, in spite of saying his performance had been "seriously deficient".

Parents of the children were already annoyed at the hearing being postponed twice in May and September 2005.

Adrian Stevenson, chairman of the Leicester Epilepsy Concern Parents and Carers' Group, said: "The GMC has avoided the true picture of the magnitude of the facts by only studying 12 cases.

"This has been devastating not just for the children who were treated but also their parents and siblings."

Trevor Parr, a member of LECPCG and a parent of one of the children misdiagnosed by Dr Holton, said: "We think that the decision treats us, the children's parents, with complete contempt.

"The courts probably awarded thousands of pounds worth of damages to the children and what the GMC are suggesting is that what he did was of minor importance.

"The guilt the parents are now suffering and feeling is unbelievable. They are being told by the GMC "the doctor's services were seriously deficient", so why did we not spot that and stop medicating our children? Why did we not realise sooner that something was going wrong?

"By giving that statement, the GMC have magnified their own guilt but the fight goes on.

Mr Parr, a 57-year-old solicitor from Enderby near Leicester, said his son Peter was treated by the doctor from the age of nine at the Leicester Royal Infirmary.

He claimed Dr Holton told his 52-year-old wife Sue that Peter's condition was her fault and he would definitely die if they stopped his treatment.

"Peter was diagnosed by Dr Holton with epilepsy but he actually never had it and should not have been treated for it for five years," he said.

Peter was in junior school when he dropped from being at the top of the class to the bottom.

His parents took him to see an educational psychologist who could not find anything wrong and he was later referred to Dr Holton.

Mr Parr said: "It just went from bad to worse. It was by fluke that we found out the truth.

"When Peter was taken ill when we went to America, we went to our friend's doctor who said, "epilepsy? Are you sure? I find this very difficult to believe and I am going to arrange appointment with Boston Children's Hospital".

"It was there that we found out our son did not have epilepsy."

Mrs Parr said: "I think it's disgusting that he has got away with it. What do you have to do in this country to get struck off?"