'Bitter disappointment' as letter from bereaved families not read out at Nottingham Hospitals maternity meeting

Bereaved families were left ‘bitterly disappointed’ after a council comittee chair said she would not read out a letter from them during a meeting about Nottingham’s maternity services.
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The largest maternity care review in NHS history is taking place at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH).

In a Nottinghamshire Council health and social care scrutiny committee meeting on October 17, hospital leaders explained improvements to councillors.

NUH chief executive Anthony May and chief nurse Michelle Rhodes attended the meeting to discuss the recent Care Quality Commission (CQC), report which saw maternity services move out of an ‘inadequate’ rating.

Jack and Sarah Hawkins felt their voices were 'being silenced' with the letter not being read out. Photo: OtherJack and Sarah Hawkins felt their voices were 'being silenced' with the letter not being read out. Photo: Other
Jack and Sarah Hawkins felt their voices were 'being silenced' with the letter not being read out. Photo: Other

Families involved in the maternity review said they wanted a letter read out to the committee so their side of the story could be heard too.

But Coun Sue Saddington (Con), chair of the committee, said she would instead send it on to commitee members.

She said: “We have received an email addressed to all councillors and I have been asked to read it out publicly.

“I consider this inappropriate because at the moment we have an ongoing inquiry from Donna Ockenden and in no way must we interfere with that.

“However, it has been sent out to all members.

“I can assure the families who have written this email that the committee will continue to scrutinise maternity services at NUH while the service is considered to require improvement.”

Jack and Sarah Hawkins, whose baby Harriet died in 2016, said they were ‘disappointed’ the letter had not been read out.

Mr Hawkins said: “Nottingham families harmed by maternity wrote our letter to the county health scrutiny committee with the very best of intentions.

“We want to ensure that there is not fatigue setting in, allowing NUH to go back to its old ways.

“We are bitterly disappointed the chair of the committee chose to not read out our statement and we have been given various reasons, none of which seem to be very good reasons.

“The feeling among families is that our voices and our children’s voices were silenced, something that we are far too familiar with.

“The health scrutiny committee to date has not allowed our voices to be heard and we thought we were doing the right thing be sending in a statement as they are clear we cannot speak in that committee.

“To our mind that gives NUH free reign to tell their side of the story.”

Responding after the meeting, Coun Saddington said the overriding sentiment she wishes to express to families is that she will not be happy until women and babies feel safe whilst being cared for at NUH.

She said: “There is a feeling that improvements in maternity services at NUH are too slow, change on a number of levels needs to be faster, and we as a committee will be keeping a very close eye on this.

“I’ve taken the unusual step to invite representatives of the bereaved parents to meet with myself and my vice-chairman so that we hear first-hand their very personal and emotional stories.

“I must also be mindful that any such meetings must not interfere in any way with the ongoing Ockenden and Nottinghamshire Police inquiries.”

Coun Saddington and vice-chairman Coun Bethan Eddy (Con) will now write to NUH requesting answers and details surrounding nine serious incidents that have occurred at NUH over the last few months.

All members of the committee have now read the letter in full.

The letter, written by the ‘Nottingham Maternity Families’ had said there must be ‘real accountability for the poor care, damaging miscommunication and failures to be candid’.

The letter said: “NUH avoided scrutiny and self-reflection for years and possibly decades, choosing instead to blame the victims.

“We have gone from ‘this tragic isolated incident’ to a hidden year-long review of maternity, to an inappropriately commissioned and woefully inadequate ‘thematic review’ and now, finally, have the true measure of the catastrophe for Nottinghamshire families whose lives are destroyed by the unsafe maternity care at NUH.

“This journey has only come about because a few families refused to give up and notable support from bodies such as yours.

The letter explained how families welcome the leadership of Anthony May and chair Nick Carver but added ‘many of the same people are still providing care and managing services with no sanction and no accountability’.

It comes after maternity services at Nottingham’s hospitals moved out of an ‘inadequate’ rating for the first time in almost three years after healthcare watchdog the CQC said improvements had been made.

The full report, published in September, found areas of ‘significant improvement’ within maternity services and highlighted how the chair and chief executive are changing the trust’s culture.

Some ongoing areas of concern at the time of the latest inspection included training levels, cleanliness of equipment and some staff feeling unable to speak up about concerns.

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