Full police investigation into Nottingham maternity failings will not start until spring 2024
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Nottinghamshire Police made the announcement as part of an update on its probe into the services at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital.
Maternity at both sites is rated ‘requires improvement’ by the healthcare watchdog, and independent midwife Donna Ockenden is leading the largest review in NHS history into cases including stillbirth, neonatal deaths, brain damage and harm to mothers.
Around 1,800 families are expected to be involved in the process.
Assistant chief constable Robert Griffin will lead the criminal investigation into ‘severe harm and deaths linked to maternity care provision’.
He said the force is in the ‘preparatory stages’ of the investigation.
ACC Griffin said: “Our approach will be underpinned by compassion, care and candour toward those affected and I will also be taking advantage of good practice and lessons learnt from cases with similarities elsewhere in the country.
“I would not expect the investigative work to begin before the spring of 2024.
“Unfortunately, it is really difficult to give an exact date, but it is really important that we have put in place the right infrastructure to support the investigation before we begin our investigative work.
“Because of this, we will not be making any contact with families prior to that time, and for probably sometime thereafter.
“In respect of that contact, we will be working with Donna Ockenden to ensure that we do this in the most appropriate way.
"No identifiable information will be shared by the review team with Nottinghamshire Police without the consent of the affected family.”
A group of affected families said in a statement: “As bereaved and harmed families we welcome news of the developing police investigation.
“For too long families of Nottinghamshire have been placed in repeatedly unsafe situations resulting in grave harm and death.
"This must stop.
“There must be accountability for those who failed in the most serious devastating manner.
"In no other walk of life would preventable harm being caused to hundreds of babies and mothers be accepted without prosecution.
"This must change.
"We look forward to hearing from the police in due course.”
Anthony May, NUH chief executive, said: “From the time of my appointment at NUH, I have expressed my commitment to the Independent Review.
"I have given the same commitment to the chief constable in respect of any police investigation.
"I also reiterate the commitment we made to the families involved at our annual public meeting in July of an honest and transparent relationship with them.
“My colleagues and I work closely with the review team led by Donna Ockenden, to ensure transparent and full engagement.
"This includes meeting regularly with Donna in order listen and take action on feedback.
"The trust will also now also cooperate fully with any police investigation.”
“In the meantime, we will continue with our maternity improvement programme, which is driving changes in our maternity services.
"These changes include staffing levels, training, compliance with guidelines, record keeping and the provision and use of equipment.
“Last month, the Care Quality Commission published their latest reports on our maternity services, improving the overall rating from inadequate to requires improvement reflecting the progress we believe we have made.”