Review at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust over 'preventable baby deaths'

An independent review into maternity services at an NHS trust where a number of babies have died has been announced by the government.

It follows reports of at least seven preventable deaths at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust issued an apology to "everyone of those families we have let down", as health minister Nadine Dorries also pledged "immediate actions" and said an expert clinical team has been placed "at the heart" of the trust.

Tom Richford's son Harry died in November 2017 - a week after his emergency delivery at Margate's Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital.

His wife, Sarah Richford, had an emergency caesarean but coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks last month listed a series of errors he found with the care given.

The coroner found Harry was delivered 92 minutes after an expert had advised he should have been delivered.

The inquest also found that an inexperienced doctor was in charge of the birth, and that there was a failure to request support from a consultant earlier.

Mr Sutton-Mattocks told the inquest the couple were grieving for a child they believe should not have died, and said: "I agree with them."

"Mr and Mrs Richford were failed by the hospital, but more importantly, Harry was failed," he said.

The coroner concluded: "I find that Harry Richford's death was contributed to by neglect. It was, in my judgment, wholly avoidable."

Mr Richford on Thursday criticised the trust's chief executive Susan Acott and accused her of being in "complete denial about the scale of the problems" as he called for a full and independent public inquiry.

"Once we know the scale of the problem, hopefully people will be able to go in there and resolve the problems that there are," he told BBC Breakfast.

"At the minute we have got the leader of this whole trust in complete denial about the scale of the problems and with that is going to lead to a real lack of learning.

"And I feel like that is now embedded throughout that trust and the culture is really quite unsafe at the East Kent Hospitals Trust at the moment."

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Ms Dorries added that "some of the very best midwives and doctors from outstanding trusts have been moved in" and that "the trust is a safe and welcoming place to give birth".

She added: "We never will be complacent... I have had assurance from the Care Quality Commission that they are content that the trust is taking the issues identified seriously and has a genuine desire to make the necessary improvements."

The trust said it recognised change was needed and was doing everything it can to improve its culture.

"We know that we have not always provided the standard of care for every woman and baby that they expected and deserved, and wholeheartedly apologise to every one of those families we have let down," a spokesman for the trust said.

"We are taking all necessary steps to provide safe care and we are treating the recently raised concerns about the safety of our service with the utmost seriousness and urgency."