Investigation into scandal-hit NHS trust maternity department announces panel

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Families “deserve to know exactly what happened” at a scandal-hit NHS trust’s maternity service, an MP has said on the day an investigation panel was announced.

Care for mothers and newborn babies at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been heavily criticised following a series of baby deaths.

Among those treated at the trust was Harry Richford who died in a “wholly avoidable” tragedy, seven days after his emergency delivery in November 2017, an inquest found.

In February the Government announced an independent review into what happened, led by Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation into serious maternity failings at Morecambe Bay.

Parking at hospitals
A view of the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, which is part of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (Gareth Fuller/PA)

He said: “I am delighted to have secured the services of an expert panel with the skills and experience necessary to assess all the concerns.

“I would like to thank the families for the way they have engaged with the investigation already, including providing the papers they have collected, which has been a great help in getting the investigation up and running.

“I would also like to thank East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust for engaging with the investigation and assembling relevant medical records for scrutiny.”

The panel comprises:

– Heather Brown (obstetrics), consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and deputy medical director at Brighton and Sussex University Hospital Trust.

– Valerie Clare (midwifery), head of midwifery and divisional nurse director at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.

– Helen Mactier (neonatology), consultant neonatologist at the Princess Royal Maternity in Glasgow and honorary clinical associate professor at the University of Glasgow.

– Alison Fuller (clinical governance), deputy director of governance in a range of NHS Trusts and currently associate chief nurse for governance at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

– Denise McDonagh (information management) who has over 30 years’ experience in the public and private sectors specialising in IT and data and the operational methods underpinning systems and services.

The terms of reference for the investigation are yet to be finalised.

Dover and Deal MP Natalie Elphicke said: “I’ve had meetings with Dr Kirkup and pressed for this inquiry to look at the whole maternity process, from pre-birth monitoring through to labour care and mental health support after birth as well.

“The families affected deserve to know exactly what happened and it’s also the best way for lessons to be learnt.

“But while we wait for the report from the Kirkup investigation, the Trust can’t take their foot off the pedal.”

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