‘Urgent need for action’ remains following East Kent NHS Trust birth scandal
Maternity services at East Kent NHS Foundation Trust remain under investigation following a report of the preventable deaths of up to 15 babies in their care over recent years.
Nadine Dorries, minister for patient safety, pledged immediate action and investigations are now firmly underway by NHS England to review the two hospitals in Margate and Ashford.
Specialist medical negligence lawyer Carlos Lopez says the case has too many heart-breaking similarities to the avoidable tragedies that were recently investigated at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Foundation Trust. He urges action is taken to investigate maternity safety across the UK to ensure families know the failures have been addressed and that this will never happen again.
WHAT HAPPENED AT EAST KENT NHS FOUNDATION TRUST?
A series of preventable deaths and incidents of poor maternity care were uncovered at the Trust following the heart-breaking death of baby Harry Richford in 2017, seven days after his birth at Margate’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, because of complications with his delivery and aftercare. Harry Richford’s death was ‘absolutely avoidable’ and only after the persistence of the family was an inquest ordered. Since this, a series of failings have come to light and it is believed at least 15 babies have died because of negligence in recent years.
Results of an independent report were released by The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) in April 2020. HSIB had been investigating the Trust since July 2018 and identified “recurrent safety risks” in 24 cases, including the deaths of three babies and two mothers.
WHAT WAS THE OUTCOME OF THE HSIB REPORT?
The report found a broad range of contributing factors relating to patient safety, including:
- Concerns related to the unavailability of staff with suitable skills in reading and interpreting CTG (cardiotocograph) results
- The location of equipment vital for neonatal resuscitation “added delay, risk and distress to critical situations”
- Deterioration in the condition of mothers and babies had occurred in several cases because staff had not recognised the signs and symptoms that indicate deterioration
- Suggestion of a reluctance of midwifery staff to escalate concerns to obstetric and neonatal colleagues
The Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch (HSIB) stated that it first raised concerns in 2018, but found the failings continued. It stated in its report that the Trust was “inappropriately slow given the evidence of ongoing patient safety risks and the safety recommendations made”.
THE CARE QUALITY COMMISSION (CQC) REPORT
In May 2020, a separate report by the CQC released its latest findings which confirmed that maternity services at the hospitals were rated as ‘requiring improvement’ overall, and ‘requiring improvement’ in leadership and safety. The CQC inspection also found that the antenatal clinic at the William Harvey Hospital was “poorly maintained”.
While we recognise that improvements have been noted by the inspectors in certain areas of the CQC report, it is extremely worrying that both reports still highlight areas for concern around patient safety. Families that have been devastated by the death of their babies will feel incredibly let down that patient safety remains a key concern at the Trust.
HOW DO WE PREVENT THIS HAPPENING AGAIN?
The East Kent NHS Trust faces a possible criminal prosecution and an independent review is still pending into the circumstances of 26 maternity deaths at the hospitals. The independent and national inquiries are long overdue.
The heartbreaking similarities between the unacceptable standards of maternity care at The East Kent NHS Trust and The Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospitals are clear and it is devastating for families from both areas that such serious failures were allowed to continue for so long.
The birth of a child should be the most joyous occasion for mother, baby and family and maternity units need to show the highest level of care to both mother and child.
These are extreme examples of a hospital trust’s maternity unit being poorly managed. However, hospital trusts are under increasing pressure due to staff shortages and other institutional problems and we are sadly seeing a rising number of cases of negligence in pregnancy and child birth.
We have dealt with a number of cases involving the death of an infant or where a baby or mother has suffered life-changing injuries due to negligence during birth. We have seen the unthinkable pain this causes the family and the lasting impact it has on their lives. Nobody should have to endure this suffering.
A nationwide investigation into maternity services across the UK needs to be prioritised to look at how tragedies like this can be avoided to ensure that what these families have had to go through does not continue to happen over and over again.
If you have suffered any complications during your pregnancy or birth, then you could be eligible to make a claim. We understand the difficulties around doing this, but our team works hard for you to get justice and hopefully, stop incidents like yours happening again in the future. For a free, no obligation chat about your claim, contact our specialist medical negligence solicitors on 0800 888 6888, [email protected] or via the contact form.