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Nottingham University Hospitals Trust - Another Maternity Scandal

View profile for Malcolm Underhill
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The ink is barely dry on the second report by Donna Ockenden, on the maternity scandal at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. Her findings are shocking but sadly the failings of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust are not isolated.

Failings at Nottingham Hospitals Maternity Services

Sarah and Jack Hawkins have worked hard to highlight failings in the maternity services at the Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, following the loss of their daughter, Harriet, who was stillborn at the Nottingham Hospital in 2016. Even following the loss of their daughter, the hospital was slow to respond. The Trust took 159 days to declare a serious untoward incident investigation.

Sarah and Jack Hawkins have worked tirelessly to understand how so many families have been let down. However, they are frustrated at, amongst other things, the lack of independent review. Jack Hawkins claims the hospital have done very little to find families. Talking to families will enable a review team to learn of the individual stories, to ensure there is a thorough understanding of the issues, which would be the foundation for any comprehensive review, if it is to have the confidence of those most affected by such a report.

Apology from Nottingham Hospital

In 2021 Sarah Hawkins, a senior physiotherapist at the Nottingham Hospital, said, “we were banging on the door saying; ‘Something’s wrong, babies are dying, and they shouldn’t’, and they didn’t listen, and they haven’t listened”. It appears, a year later, the hospital are still not listening, save that the Trust’s Chief Executive, Tracey Taylor has apologised to the bereaved families, adding that the improvement of maternity services was a “top priority”.

She also said: “We apologise from the bottom of our hearts to the families who have not received the high level of care they need and deserve, we recognise the effects have been devastating.

“Improving maternity services is a top priority and we are making significant changes including hiring and training more midwives and introducing digital maternity records.

“We will continue to listen to women and families, whether they have received excellent care or where care has fallen short; it is their experiences that will help us to learn and improve our services.”

Nottingham have admitted to a catalogue of mistakes, or “deficiencies in care”.

How many babies have died and suffered brain damage at Nottingham hospitals maternity services?

In 2021 Channel 4 News reported that, between 2010 and 2020, there had been 15 deaths of mothers and babies in the maternity units, 19 babies stillborn, and at least 46 babies had suffered brain damage at the Nottingham University hospitals NHS Trust maternity units.

Channel 4 News and The Independent found evidence, in 2021, of poor care of mothers and babies and failures to investigate deaths of babies in the maternity units at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham city Hospital. There was also a failure to refer deaths to the coroner. Of cases investigated by the coroner, the case of Wynter Andrews found “gross failings” and recorded that the Queen’s Medical Centre operated in a “fundamentally unsafe manner”. There was also understaffing.

Nottingham Hospitals paid millions in compensation to families

Some parents have made compensation claims arising up of the failure of Nottingham’s maternity services. Information from NHS Resolution, which handles compensation claims on behalf of the government, reveals over 200 claims made against the Trust between 2010 and 2020. From 2011 to 2012, £14.5 million was paid out in respect of 6 claims. Other claims remain outstanding. Over a decade, more than £91 million had been paid in compensation.

No amount of compensation can make up for loss of a mother or baby but where a baby is born seriously ill, substantial compensation must be paid to the parents to enable them to properly support their child throughout their childhood and adult life. This will go a long way to ensure that when the parents are no longer able, they can have the comfort of knowing there is sufficient money to ensure their child will be safely and adequately cared for.

What were the findings of the Care Quality Commission?

In October 2020 the Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected maternity services and found “several serious concerns were identified”. The maternity unit received an “inadequate” rating and the Trust was issued with a “warning notice”. Although improvements were reported at Nottingham City Hospital, by May 2021, following a CQC inspection visit on the 20 April 2021, there were still issues to address. The service remained “inadequate”. “Inadequate” means the service is performing badly and the CQC have taken enforcement action against the provider of the service.

As a consequence of the inspection the Trust was tasked to ensure risk assessments and risk management plans were completed in accordance with national guidance and local trust policy, and documented appropriately. Further, the Trust was required to ensure information technology systems were used effectively to monitor and improve the quality of care provided to women and babies.

A CQQ inspection at the Queen’s Medical Centre on the 21 June 2021 similarly recorded a verdict of “inadequate” in relation to maternity services at the hospital.

The Review of Maternity Services

A review has been set up, but it does not have confidence of any parent, according to Mr Hawkins. He has now delivered a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Savid Javid. In this he writes, “Historically there have been reviews, nothing has changed. Coroners have publicly raised concerns, nothing has changed.

“If families are to be safeguarded, real and impactful intervention is required. The thematic review so far has been less than impactful, understaffed and moving with the viscosity of treacle.”

A new role for Donna Ockenden

The Review does not accept the criticism, pointing out that over 463 families have been in contact with them. However, the bereaved parents have seized the opportunity, requesting the Secretary of State for Health, appoint Donna Ockenden to lead an enquiry into Nottingham University hospitals Trust. Donna Ockenden has said she will be “honoured and touched” to lead the enquiry, although no decision has been made by the Government.

Sadly, these scandalous maternity cases are not confined to just one or two hospitals but are more widespread across the country, including East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Wales Cwm Taf, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and Morecambe Bay. It is clear that more needs to be done to prevent mothers and babies dying and some babies being born seriously ill. Consequently, the appointment of Donna Ockenden is essential to ensure a thorough and independent review is undertaken. It is imperative the parents have confidence in the review process.


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