Inquiry into failings in maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals set to become the largest of its kind in the UK

The inquiry into failings in maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals set to become the largest of its kind in the UK.

NHS England wrote to families involved in the inquiry into maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust to confirm that it had agreed to the review becoming an “opt out” rather than an “opt in” process.

The independent inquiry chair, Donna Ockenden, confirmed that as many as 1700 patients could now be examined, making it the largest probe into failings in maternity care in the UK and the fourth such review in England since 2015

This is the same approach that Donna Ockenden took in the Shrewsbury and Telford inquiry wherein a round 1500 families took part—95% of those asked—and the final report published last year concluded that 200 baby deaths had been avoidable.

The goal of moving to an “opt out” approach is to tackle under-representation of women from minority ethnic groups and those living in deprived areas. It is hoped that the inquiry can now provide “a more realistic picture of maternity care at NUH,” Ockenden said in a statement.

Families won’t have to speak to the review if they don’t want to, but their medical records can be examined as part of the inquiry. The final report was expected for March 2024, but it’s not yet clear if it will be delayed.

NUH has already admitted that its services at Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital were unsafe.

Ms Ockenden has confirmed that more than 900 families had spoken to them.
Additionally, she added that 400 current and former Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust staff had also been in contact.

The latest appeal is to encourage those who have put off coming forward – stressing that they will be supported.

One of the barriers to contacting the review may be that people do not want to revisit their trauma in depth. Ms Ockenden stresses there are different ways people can share their experiences, with levels of involvement and psychological support .

She has also reached out to groups such as the Sikh community, acutely aware that Nottingham is a much more diverse place city than Shrewsbury and Telford, where her last maternity investigation was centred.

Her mission is to ensure that “no voices are left unheard”. Among the objectives is to uncover the depth and scale of what has gone so badly wrong and give families who have felt not listened to a voice.

One of the first concerns raised about NUH followed the sad death of Harriet Hawkins in 2016. Jack and Sarah Hawkins, initially among the first families to express concerns regarding care shortcomings at NUH, raised the issue following the unfortunate death of their daughter, Harriet, during childbirth on April 17, 2016. Both employed by the Trust in roles of consultant in acute medicine and senior physiotherapist when Harriet was born, the couple alleged a series of cover-ups. Subsequently, they discovered other families with similar experiences.

An internal investigation absolved the NUH of fault, but an independent legal investigation identified 13 significant individual failings in Harriet’s care. The Trust acknowledged negligence in 2018, leading to the couple settling a claim out of court. The launch of the Ockenden Review provided a sense of validation for the couple, yet they remain cautiously optimistic about the potential change in the culture of “victim-blaming” following the report.

Although the Ockenden Review is a step in the right direction it should not be presumed that findings of negligence will be forthcoming.

Our experienced team are on hand to provide impartial legal advice for any family who are involved in the NUH review process.

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