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Nottingham: Families criticise review into baby deaths and failures at NHS maternity units

Dozens of families affected by failures in maternity care in Nottingham have called for an independent review to be carried out by the same midwife who investigated the maternity scandal in Shropshire.

A group of families have written to Sajid Javid, the health and social care secretary, to ask him to appoint Donna Ockenden to investigate maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH).

Last week, Ms Ockenden delivered her final report on maternity failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

Her investigation found that 201 babies and nine mothers died due to poor care.

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Stories behind the maternity scandal

A review into maternity services in Nottingham is currently under way after dozens of babies died or suffered brain damage.

But families have expressed concerns about the pace and independence of the review, which is led by the local Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England.

In the letter to Mr Javid, they have written “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. How can the public have faith in this process? The only answer is Donna Ockenden and a public inquiry.”

Sky News understands that so far 461 families have come forward for the review.

‘Out of the blue, they said your baby’s dead’

Jack and Sarah Hawkins had to fight the trust to admit that failings in care led to the death of their daughter Harriet.

Harriet was stillborn in April 2016 after doctors and midwives failed to recognise that Sarah was in labour.

Sarah was told by doctors that she wasn't going into labous
Image:
Sarah was told by doctors that she wasn’t going into labour

“Not only did she die but we were blamed. They denied that we’d had contact with them,” said Jack.

The couple had to show phone records to prove they’d called the hospital with concerns.

“Harriet was basically stuck and they had said Sarah wasn’t in labour,” Jack said.

“We went in and then just out of the blue they said your baby’s dead.”

At the time Jack was a consultant in acute medicine at the trust and Sarah was a physiotherapist.

Read more: The babies who died in the UK’s worst maternity scandal

They no longer work there after a lengthy battle that ended with the trust admitting liability and negligence.

The couple were awarded a £2.8 million settlement.

“Harriet’s avoidable death was appalling care but then we were horrified by the response from everyone, including the trust board,” Jack said.

Harriet was  stillborn in April 2016
Image:
Harriet was stillborn in April 2016

In 2020 maternity services run by NUH were rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.

A re-inspection last month saw the trust issued a warning notice.

The inspection found an increase in stillbirths and some midwives acting outside of their competence. It also highlighted issues with understaffing.

Read more: Major report into maternity scandal at NHS trust where hundreds of babies died or left brain damaged to be revealed

A spokesperson from Nottingham University Hospitals said: “We are cooperating fully with the ongoing independent review, and work closely with local families to learn where we can make improvements at an individual level as well as develop better services for the future.”

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A spokesperson for Nottingham and Nottinghamshire CCG and NHS England and NHS Improvement in the Midlands, which commissioned the Independent Thematic Review into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals, said: “The ongoing thematic review has a dedicated team who are ensuring that the experience of women and families is heard.

“We will continue to monitor the progress of the review and ensure that any necessary improvements to maternity services are put in place as soon as possible.”

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