Hospital bosses tried to reinstate nurse Lucy Letby despite fears she was killing babies, court told
Hospital bosses tried repeatedly to reinstate a nurse despite fears she was responsible for killing babies on a neonatal ward, a court has heard.
Senior medics are said to have to resisted several attempts by management at the Countess of Chester hospital to return Lucy Letby to her role at the unit after she was removed.
Ms Letby, 33, is on trial at Manchester Crown Court accused of murdering seven babies and attempting to kill a further 10 in the neonatal unit between 2015 and 2016. She denies the allegations.
Jurors heard that she was taken away from her duties in 2016 because paediatricians feared she was linked to a series of unexplained deaths and collapses of newborns.
The battle over Ms Letby’s possible return to frontline duties continued for 11 months as the neonatal nurse pursued a grievance procedure, the trial was told.
At one point, consultants said they would only agree to her return if the hospital installed CCTV throughout the unit.
Giving evidence on Wednesday, Dr John Gibbs, formerly a lead clinician at the hospital, told the jury that his colleague, Stephen Brearey, the lead paediatrician, had reported his concerns about Ms Letby on a number of occasions.
The “tipping point” on the issue came in the immediate aftermath of the death of two triplets – named in court as Baby O and Baby P - within 24 hours of each other. Both were deaths “that shouldn’t have happened”. The other triplet survived.
Dr Gibbs, who has since retired, said he remembered feeling “uncomfortable” when he came into the unit on June 23 2016 to find Baby O dying after an unexplained collapse.
He told the court: “I thought, ‘Oh no, not another one’. I’d become increasingly concerned about the unusual, unexplained and inexplicable collapses that had been happening on the neonatal unit and the fact that Staff Nurse Letby had been involved in all of them.”
He described the collapses as unique events “that I’d never seen before in my career”.
“This was happening again and again on our unit and that can’t just be coincidence or bad luck - there had to be a cause,” he said.
“The concern I’ve described was becoming apparent. It was unusual that unexpected incidents kept on happening. It was a trend that had built up over time.”
It was one of the duties of Dr Brearey to carry out reviews into baby deaths and adverse outcomes, the court heard.
Dr Gibbs said he knew that Dr Brearey had raised the issue of Ms Letby’s presence “several times” and that his concerns had gone to the hospital’s risk management team to be assessed.
They had also been raised with the director of nursing and the medical director at the hospital.
Dr Gibbs said: “After the deaths of Baby P and Baby O, and regrettably, tragically, too late for them, safety measures were introduced. One that was introduced was that Staff Nurse Letby was removed from the unit.
“It was not a simple, straightforward procedure because a month later they met with us and told us she should come back. We said that should only happen if we had CCTV in every room on the unit.
“Over the next 11 months we had to resolutely resist repeated attempts by management to have Staff Nurse Letby come back to the unit”.
When Mr Myers questioned the length of time it took the consultants to ask for CCTV, Dr Gibbs said such a request was unpreceded and “unheard of in my experience”.
He told the barrister he was aware that following her removal from the unit Ms Letby had pursued a grievance procedure against the hospital, adding it was something a member of staff could pursue “if they feel they’ve been treated badly”.
The trial continues.