The NHS could be facing its biggest maternity scandal to date as the review of services in Nottingham is now expected to exceed 1,500 cases. the independent has learned.
The investigation began in 2021 after this newspaper revealed that dozens of babies had died or have been left with serious injuries or brain damage as a result of care at NUH, which is run by Nottingham City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Center (QMC).
But the scope of the inquiry has more than doubled, with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust sending more than 1,000 letters to families asking them to contact the independent inquiry, after 700 families previously raised concerns.
Of these, the number of families expected to be covered by the investigation is more than 1,500, surpassing the 1,486 examined during the UK’s biggest maternity scandal in Shrewsbury.
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The Nottingham investigation’s time frame is also shorter, covering incidents from 2012 onwards compared to Shrewsbury, where cases spanned from 1973 to 2020, with the majority occurring from the year 2000.
Families approached by the Nottingham Trust include those who have suffered stillbirths, neonatal deaths from 24 weeks gestation to 28 days of life, babies diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and other brain injury, maternal deaths up to 42 days postpartum deaths and severe maternal harm.
Grieving parents who have previously spoken out claimed the families were “ignored” by carers in the trust and have long called for an independent investigation.
Not all families who have received new letters from the trust will have received notification of possible miscare, the independent understands
Sarah Hawkins, who lost her daughter Harriet in 2016 following the negligence of Nottingham City Hospital staff, said The independent: “It is truly devastating to begin to learn the extent of the damage that has been happening to families in Nottinghamshire.
“Having all been alone, isolated in our pain and hurt, we are now surrounded by a large and growing number of families.
“To anyone who receives a letter regarding your care, we as families would like to offer our strength and support at such a difficult time. We encourage people to contact the review team. They are approachable and friendly.”
Reporting on the scandal in 2021, the independent revealed that in some cases key medical notes were missing or never made, while others were completely inaccurate.
the National Health Service The Trust failed to properly investigate some deaths for months, and where it did, the details were incorrect or senior management watered down the reviews to lessen criticism.
A whistleblower earlier claimed that a “Teflon team” of managers allowed staff shortages to reach dangerous levels, while midwives’ pleas were ignored and incidents “swept under the rug”.
The trust has already paid out millions of pounds following hundreds of clinical malpractice claims.
The initial review launched last year was superseded after families complained and is now led by Donna Ockenden, who chaired the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SATH) maternity inquiry.
The SATH report, published in the spring, found that 300 babies had died or suffered brain injuries in just over 1,592 incidents in 1,486 families analyzed by the review team.
The new Nottingham review started in September and the final report is estimated to be published in March 2024.
said Mrs Ockenden the independent:: “We recognize that it can be difficult to receive [these] letters with such sad content. The review team is available to provide support when needed. [to families] and a reminder that we cannot access medical records without [families’] permission.
“So please respond to the letter and if you have any questions, please contact the team.”
The news comes after the publication of the East Kent maternity failure inquiry, which found poor care may have led to the death of 45 babies, with 97 cases of harm.
Sara Ledger, Baby Lifeline’s director of research and development, said: “The fact that so many families are turning up for the Nottingham maternity check is extremely significant. It shows how many lives are affected by problems in our NHS maternity services and how important these reviews are, in terms of allowing families’ voices to be heard.
“There have now been many high-profile inquiries into maternity safety within NHS Trusts across the country, which, in turn, have produced strong recommendations and clarity around immediate and essential actions.
“The Independent Review of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Maternity Services, which is being led by Baby Lifeline Honorary Chair Donna Ockenden, will contribute even more evidence and recommendations to those made in previous research. ”.
A NUH spokeswoman said: “Together with Donna Ockenden, we have written to over 1,000 families identified with potentially relevant maternity cases for independent review of our maternity services (based on the five categories identified in the terms of reference).
“Letters will start arriving this week with information about the review and how people can participate if they want to.”
“We are committed to making necessary and sustainable improvements to our maternity services and that is why we will continue to do everything we can to support the work of the independent review.”
If anyone has serious or significant concerns about their maternity care, they can contact the review team at [email protected] or call 01243 786 993.