Lucy Letby inquiry to probe missed chances to stop serial killer nurse

NHS managers to be probed on thier response to Letby concerns

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Thursday 19 October 2023 17:36 BST
Lucy Letby: Moment killer nurse arrested over baby deaths

A public inquiry into serial killer nurse Lucy Letby will investigate whether NHS managers missed opportunities to stop her murderous spree, it has been revealed.

Letby was sentenced last month to a rare whole-life order after being found guilty of murdering seven babies and the attempted murders of six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit, making her one of Britain’s most prolific serial killers of children.

The 33-year-old was found to have deliberately injected infants with air or poisoned them with insulin between June 2015 and June 2016. Other babies, some of whom had been born prematurely or had specific vulnerabilities, were harmed by being fed excessive amounts of milk, while one was physically assaulted.

A statutory inquiry was launched by ministers following her conviction, and it has now been revealed that it will probe the conduct of staff at the hospital, including board members, managers, doctors, nurses and midwives while Letby was employed there.

This will include examining:

  • Whether suspicions should have been raised earlier
  • If Letby should have been suspended earlier and whether the police should have been informed sooner
  • The response by managers at the hospital to concerns raised about Letby
  • whether the trust’s culture contributed to the failure to protect babies from Letby

In the wake of Letby’s guilty verdict, senior doctors came forward claiming they raised concerns about her while she was working to trust managers, but they were ignored.

The inquiry will also look at the experiences of the parents of the babies and more widely at the effectiveness of NHS structures and regulations in place to protect babies in hospitals.

Lucy Letby denied the charges and is appealing her conviction
Lucy Letby denied the charges and is appealing her conviction (Chester Standard/SWNS)

Staff working at the countess will be asked:

  • What concerns were raised and when about the conduct of Letby? By whom were they raised? What was done?
  • What was known and what should have been known about Letby’s previous work as a nurse when she began employment at the Countess of Chester Hospital
  • What was the board’s involvement in the way concerns about Letby were dealt with by the hospital
  • What happened to those who raised concerns about Letby?

Cheshire Police last month announced it has launched a corporate manslaughter investigation at the Countess of Chester Hospital following Letby’s convictions. It will look at areas such as senior leadership and decision-making “to determine whether any criminality has taken place”.

Detective Superintendent Simon Blackwell said: “The investigation will focus on the indictment period of the charges for Lucy Letby, from June 2015 to June 2016, and consider areas including senior leadership and decision-making to determine whether any criminality has taken place.

Letby, from Hereford, denied all the offences and formally lodged an appeal against her conviction at the Court of Appeal last month.

She is facing a further trial over one count of attempted murder related to a baby girl, known as Child K, in February 2016. A provisional date for the retrial, which is expected to last between two and three weeks at Manchester Crown Court, has been set for 10 June next year.

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