Call for full public inquiry to investigate Letby murders

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Lawyers representing families of some of the babies attacked by serial killer Lucy Letby have said that a non-statutory public inquiry into her killing spree is “inadequate”.

Ministers ordered an independent inquiry after Letby, 33, was convicted of the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of six more during her shifts on the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016.

But Slater and Gordon, which is representing two of the families involved, said that a non-statutory inquiry “is not good enough” and needs to have a “statutory basis to have real teeth”.

“The inquiry announced by the Department of Health is inadequate,” said Richard Scorer, head of abuse law and public inquiries, and Yvonne Agnew, head of the firm’s Cardiff clinical negligence department, in a joint statement.

“As a non-statutory inquiry, it does not have the power to compel witnesses to provide evidence or production of documents and must rely on the goodwill of those involved to share their testimony.

“This is not good enough.

“The failings here are very serious and an inquiry needs to have a statutory basis to have real teeth.”

It comes after Samantha Dixon, Labour MP for Chester, also raised concerns about a non-statutory inquiry.

“I do have some concerns about the risks around a non-statutory inquiry in that people are not obliged to attend and to give evidence,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“So I have replied to him and asked him why he has come to that decision, given that there are these risks and that we need full answers.”

She added: “A non-statutory inquiry almost relies on the goodwill of witnesses to attend. They are not obliged to attend, they’re no

Meanwhile hospital bosses have been ordered to adhere their whistleblowing policies after it emerged that numerous staff raised concerns about the actions of the nurse as she conducted a year-long killing spree.

NHS England wrote to hospital leaders across the country following the verdict to remind them to remind them of “the importance of NHS leaders listening to the concerns of patients, families and staff, and following whistleblowing procedures, alongside good governance, particularly at trust level”.

The letter added: “We want everyone working in the health service to feel safe to speak up – and confident that it will be followed by a prompt response.”

It comes as Dr Ravi Jayaram, one of the doctors who raised concerns over Letby’s behaviour, said that whistleblowers are “not only being ignored but then being portrayed as the problem”.

He added: “There needs to be fundamental change in the culture and governance of NHS institutions and it should start right now.”

Dr Jayaram called for managers involved in the case, who are “still earning six figure sums of tax-payers money or retired with their gold-plated pensions”, to “stand up in public to explain why they did not want to listen and do the right thing, to acknowledge that their actions potentially facilitated a mass-murderer and to apologise to the families involved in all of this”.

Sheila Sobrany, president of the Royal College of Nursing, also called into question whether Dr Jayaram “would have been listened to if he was white”.

She wrote on Twitter: “If we are going to learn anything from this case we need to stop denying that racism is a serious issue in the NHS, this doctor would have been listened to if he was white and Lucy Letby would have been stopped sooner if she wasn’t white.

“This was a serious safeguarding issue that compromised the lives and well-being of babies and subsequently their parents.

“Dr Ravi Jayram was not listened to or taken seriously.”

Meanwhile Slater and Gordon also called for the Government’s inquiry to investigate how the NHS’ duty of candour scheme had “failed”.

Mr Scorer and Ms Agnew added: “An inquiry also needs to look at why the NHS’s ‘duty of candour’ seems to have failed in this case, with hospital managers seemingly prioritising the hospital’s reputation above child safety.

“We do not believe that ‘duty of candour’ is an adequate substitute for a proper mandatory reporting regime, and any inquiry needs to examine this issue properly as failings here could be replicated elsewhere in the NHS”.

It comes as police said they are reviewing the care of 4,000 babies who were admitted to the Countess of Chester – and also Liverpool Women’s Hospital when Letby had two work placements – going as far back as 2012.

The families of her victims have said they have been left “heartbroken, devastated, angry and feel numb” by her actions.

But is expected they will not see Letby when she is sentenced on Monday after the serial killer has indicated she will not take part in the hearing at Manchester Crown Court.

Former Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Tony Chambers, who was in charge at the time, said he would co-operate “fully and openly” with the inquiry.

Dr Nigel Scawn, medical director at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said in a statement on Friday: “Since Lucy Letby worked at our hospital, we have made significant changes to our services and I want to provide reassurance to every patient that may access our services that they can have confidence in the care that they will receive.”

But he walked away without answering as a journalist asked: “Why did hospital managers try to stop Lucy Letby from being investigated?”