A damning report Wednesday found that 45 babies who died at two English hospitals might have survived if their care had been up to standard, the latest scandal to hit UK maternity services.
As many as 65 baby deaths have been reported at two English hospitals in the United Kingdom, out of which 45 deaths have been linked with poor care and neglect. (Representative photo)
By Agence France-Presse: A damning report Wednesday found that 45 babies who died at two English hospitals might have survived if their care had been up to standard, the latest scandal to hit UK maternity services.
Bill Kirkup, who led the official independent investigation, described his findings as “stark” and “shocking”.
Seventeen other babies suffered brain damage, while another 12 might have avoided harm with better care, the report said.
Thirty-two mothers died or were injured, with 23 of those cases also being possibly avoidable.
“Had care been given to the nationally recognised standards, the outcome could have been different… in 45 of the 65 baby deaths examined,” Kirkup told reporters.
There had been “failures of professionalism, of compassion and of kindness” at the hospitals run by East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust in southeast England, he added.
“Women were not listened to… they were disregarded and that led directly to instances of harm” including baby deaths, he said.
Reacting to the report, Danielle Clark, mother to Noah, whose case was investigated, said people needed “to be held accountable”.
“Things have got to change. Babies are dying just through bad care and pure neglect.”
Kirkup, who seven years ago published similar findings after probing baby deaths at another group of hospitals in northwestern England, said that once again, lessons had not been learned.
“On at least eight separate occasions over a 10-year period, the trust board (at East Kent) was presented with what should have been inescapable signals that there were serious problems.
“They could have put it right. The first instance was in 2010 but they didn’t. In every single case, they found a way to deny that there were problems.”
The crisis in England’s maternity services has been highlighted by two other similar scandals and another probe announced in May.
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt, a former health minister, described the report as “horrific”.
“It’s simply unthinkable that on top of all the other maternity care scandals we’ve heard about in recent years, another one has been uncovered with 45 baby deaths,” he wrote on Twitter.
The East Kent investigation was sparked by the death of baby Harry Richford, who died seven days after he was born by emergency caesarean in November 2017.
An inquest into his death concluded that he died due to seven gross failings amounting to neglect.
THIS CANNOT GO ON
Kirkup’s findings echoed his own 2015 probe of maternity services at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.
“When I reported on Morecambe Bay maternity services in 2015, I did not imagine for one moment that I would be back in seven years’ time talking about a rather similar set of circumstances and that there would have been another two large, high-profile maternity failures as well on top of that,” he said.
“This cannot go on.”
Another report, published in March, found that more than 200 babies could have survived if they had been given better care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in central England.
Babies were stillborn, died shortly after birth or were left severely brain-damaged over a 20-year period from 2000 to 2019, according to that review.
Here again, nine of 12 mothers who died during the period could have had “significantly” better treatment. Others were made to have natural births when they should have been offered Caesarean sections.
The findings prompted an apology in parliament by the then health minister Sajid Javid.
Two months later in May it was announced that Donna Docken, who led the Shrewsbury and Telford inquiry, would also chair a review of services in Nottingham in central England after numerous families there also came forward.
Kirkup’s Morecambe Bay inquiry had concluded that a “lethal mix” of failures led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother.
East Kent chief executive Tracey Fletcher said she wanted to “say sorry and apologise unreservedly”.
Health Secretary Caroline Johnson apologised to families and said the NHS was “committed to preventing families from going through the same pain in future”.