‘Not a single person held to account’: Families demand action against those who caused baby deaths at NHS trust

Families affected by maternity care failings at a major NHS hospital trust have demanded that those responsible for the death and harm of hundreds of babies and mothers be held accountable.

The Nottingham Families Maternity Group said not a “single person” at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUHT) had been held accountable exactly one year after a review into the trust’s maternity services was launched.

The review, which is analysing more than 1,700 suspected failings, came after The Independent uncovered poor care over more than a decade at the trust, revealing failures in the cases of 61 babies.

The families said: “To date, not a single person – clinical staff, managerial staff, board member, commissioner, governance lead – has been held to account for the known, avoidable and predictable failures. How is this possible? Local coroners have concluded ‘neglect’ in multiple inquests.

“This, along with the high number of medical negligence cases, should surely trigger disciplinary processes.”

They added: “We expect action; just as there would be if a baby or mother had died or suffered a horrific injury in any other circumstance.

Donna Ockenden, who is leading the independent review (PA)
Donna Ockenden, who is leading the independent review (PA)

“We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who will continue our fight until there is accountability and change.”

While the group welcomed cooperation from NUHT, which has pledged to publicly apologise to those affected, the families called for a police investigation into whether anyone was criminally culpable at the trust.

Gary and Sarah Andrews, whose first child Wynter died in their arms 23 minutes after being born at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre in 2019 due to lack of oxygen, urged police to look at cases and “take it seriously”.

Mrs Andrews said: “We really want the police to look at the individual cases and take it seriously, and really consider if there are criminal proceedings that can be taken there.

“From the very start, all we have wanted to do is to stop families going through what we’ve gone through.

“Losing our daughter has destroyed our lives. We’re not the same people we were. We can’t work, every day is a struggle.”

Meanwhile, more than 650 trust staff also came forward to highlight their concerns.

Anthony May, chif executive of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (PA Wire)
Anthony May, chif executive of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (PA Wire)

Two former employees, whose daughter died because of care failings, believe similar incidents are happening across the country that are yet to be uncovered.

Dr Jack Hawkins and his wife, Sarah, said they were contacted by families across the country about maternity failings like those that caused the death of their first child, Harriet, in 2016.

Harriet died as a result of mismanaged labour at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre, which lasted six days and included 13 contacts with NUHT.

The couple were falsely told that their daughter had died from an infection and NUHT were not at fault, but an independent external review found 13 significant individual failings in Harriet’s care, with the trust admitting negligence in 2018 and the couple settling a claim out of court.

“We get contacted by people from around the country, and the behaviours of clinical staff and managerial staff and the letters that we see that get sent from senior hospital staff are the same, just with a different letterhead, as the sort of things we used to get from Nottingham”, Dr Hawkins said.

They questioned why no one has been brought to account over the failings, echoing calls from the Nottingham Families Maternity Group for police to investigate.

Dr Hawkins added: “We believe that laws have been broken and to be a doctor or a midwife, you have to meet regulatory standards and we know that those have been broken.

“So how come nobody has been held to account for the awful circumstances of Harriet’s death, and the awful circumstances of their follow-up to Harriet’s death? Not a single person has been held to account.”

Felicity Benyon had her bladder incorrectly removed by NUHT in an emergency hysterectomy during the delivery of her second child in 2015. She said she was blamed for the error, which has caused her to suffer sepsis and septicaemia, and now lives with a urostomy stoma bag.

The 37-year-old, from Mansfield, accepts that NUHT is improving but she says she wouldn’t touch the trust “with a barge pole” as she does not yet feel it has progressed sufficiently.

Speaking about whether criminal charges should be brought, she said: “It’s about what’s right being done. It’s about if someone has broken the law, they need to be held accountable.

“If someone has caused harm and danger and they are potentially going to cause harm and danger again, we need to prevent that from happening.

“We’re here today with an open book of nearly 1,800 families who NUHT have admitted to harming. That’s a huge number. That averages out at over three a week that are coming to serious harm over a 10-year period.

“Families need to feel something’s been done.”

In July, Donna Ockenden, who is leading the independent review, announced that hundreds more cases would be investigated after NHS England agreed that families would have to opt out of being included.

The Nottingham Families Maternity Group said: “Even very recently, we have fought for the review to be a comprehensive one, to ensure all families whose harm fits the categories and years outlined by the review are automatically included.

“It’s only in recent months that we have received support from several board members of NHS England, support that again, we have fought for but for which we’re very grateful.”

Anthony May OBE, chief executive of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUHT), said improvements would be made “whatever the costs, whatever it takes”.

He said: “We work closely with the review team led by Donna Ockenden and meet regularly with the team to listen to the feedback, respond accordingly and inform our improvement plan.

“We are determined to fulfil the commitment we made in July to an open and honest relationship with the families involved in the review and all women and families within our maternity services.

“We still have a long way, but our communities can be assured that maternity services are improving and we are making sustainable progress in a number of areas to benefit the safety and wellbeing of women, families and staff as part of our Maternity Improvement Programme.

“We are focused on learning from incidents, improving our culture and communicating more effectively with women and families that use our services.”