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Investigation Launched Into Nottingham Hospital Trust Failings Following Infant Deaths

Nottinghamshire Police will open an investigation into maternity unit failings at a hospital trust in Nottingham, which led to deaths of dozens of babies.

The decision to investigate maternity units at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust was announced by Chief Constable Kate Meynell on Thursday.

It comes after a review of maternity incidents, complaints, and concerns was launched last year, led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden.

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The trust’s maternity units at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital saw dozens of babies in their care suffer brain damage or death between 2010 and 2020.

The police met with Ms. Ockenden on Wednesday to discuss her independent review and to get a “clearer picture of the work that is taking place.” Assistant Chief Constable, Rob Griffin will oversee the preparation and the subsequent investigation.

The announcement comes after an investigation into maternity practices at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust was launched in June 2020. The investigation, also chaired by Ms. Ockenden, reviewed nearly 1,500 families, whose experiences occurred predominantly between 2000 and 2019.

The findings revealed that 201 babies and nine mothers could have survived if they had better maternity care.

“We are currently looking at the work being done in Shrewsbury and Telford by West Mercia Police to understand how they conducted their investigation alongside Donna Ockenden’s review and any lessons learnt,” said Ms. Meynell.

The police plan to hold preliminary discussions with some local families in Nottingham in the near future.

More than 1,200 families have contacted Ms. Ockenden’s team to express their concerns associated with the quality of medical care at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital.

These families include those who have suffered stillbirths, neonatal deaths, brain injuries in babies, as well as maternal deaths.

The NUH review initially relied on an opt-in process, which meant families had to contact the review team and give consent for their case to be included.

Ms. Ockenden had argued (pdf) that this led to “unacceptably low” representation of women and families from ethnic minority communities and deprived communities. She had asked the Department of Health, the NHS, and the trust to change the methodology to an opt-out system.

This meant that families would only have to contact the review team if they didn’t want their case to be included. The decision was then made in July to move to a full opt-out approach.

“For too long we have failed to listen to women and families who have been affected by failings in our maternity services. This ‘brick wall’ has caused additional pain, and this must change,” said the NUH chair, Nick Carver, in a statement in July.

Ms. Ockenden also expressed her commitment to the families and vowed that the review will “do absolutely everything we can to ensure that every voice is heard, that no one is left behind.”

The police investigation alongside the independent review is set to bring some answers to the families, who have suffered from failures in medical care.

Individuals could face prosecution or appear in court, as a result of police involvement.

Nottinghamshire Police has confirmed that the NUH chief executive Anthony May has “committed to fully cooperate” with the investigation.

“I also reiterate the commitment we made to the families involved at our annual public meeting in July of an honest and transparent relationship with them,” said Mr. May in a statement.

In March, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out unannounced inspections at the City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre. Following the inspection, the CQC rated them inadequate.

Maternity services at both sites were rated inadequate overall, as well as for being safe and well-led.

According to CQC, the staff were not always carrying out observations on women to check that their condition hadn’t deteriorated. Midwives weren’t always clear on who could perform observations, the regulator added.

An inspection report for the trust’s maternity services is due to be published on Sept. 13.

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