Families seek new ‘Ockenden review’ as 450 come forward in latest NHS maternity scandal

·3-min read
Families in Nottingham have urged Sajid Javid to appoint Donna Ockenden to lead the latest inquiry into their concerns - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor
Families in Nottingham have urged Sajid Javid to appoint Donna Ockenden to lead the latest inquiry into their concerns - UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

About 450 families have contacted investigators over the latest NHS maternity scandal, say campaigners, who claim that the current review is “not fit for purpose”.

An inquiry into maternity services at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust was announced last summer amid concerns over the deaths of 30 babies.

Last month, the Health Secretary promised enhanced oversight of the process, after families spoke out in the wake of a separate inquiry led by Donna Ockenden, which linked more than 200 baby deaths to failings by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

Families in Nottingham urged Sajid Javid to appoint Ms Ockenden to lead the latest inquiry into their concerns. However, Julie Dent, a former NHS chief, was appointed, only to stand down within weeks for “personal reasons”.

On Tuesday, families urged the Health Secretary once again to put Ms Ockenden in charge of the inquiry, detailing concerns that the current review was not fit for purpose.

It came after they met Mr Javid earlier this month.

Donna Ockenden - Jacob King/PA Wire
Donna Ockenden - Jacob King/PA Wire

They said that despite “a very minimal attempt to contact harmed families”, the numbers coming forward leapt from about 80 to 450 in just two weeks.

The group expressed concern that too little has been done to investigate stillbirths at the trust, highlighting 35 cases in less than three years.

Last year, The Independent and Channel 4 disclosed that millions had been paid out by the trust in relation to 30 baby deaths and 46 cases of babies who had been left permanently brain damaged.

Jack Hawkins, a medic, became a whistleblower after his daughter Harriet was stillborn in 2016. A series of errors during Mr Hawkins’ wife Sarah’s pregnancy were found to have caused Harriet’s death.

He said that the couple were effectively “blamed” for the death, with the trust denying they had contacted the hospital about their concerns, forcing them to retrieve telephone records.

The couple, who were awarded a £2.8 million settlement, are among a group of families calling for the investigation into maternity services in Nottingham to be taken over by Ms Ockenden, who has said she would be “honoured” to investigate.

An NHS spokesman said: “The NHS is committed to ensuring that the unacceptable experiences of these families are responded to and fully learned from, and as part of the next steps of the review, we will ensure families are fully engaged in this process.”

Sajid Javid, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “I take the patient safety concerns at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s maternity services very seriously and I recently met with the families affected to hear first-hand of their concerns.

“It is crucial that the best possible leadership is in place to deliver an independent review that leads to real change, and I am working with the NHS to take action to ensure no families have to go through the same pain again.”

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