Lucy Letby: Senior NHS manager ‘who ignored concerns’ over killer nurse suspended from new role

Former chief nurse suspended as families call for full public inquiry into killings

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Monday 21 August 2023 13:46 BST

A senior manager accused of “ignoring” concerns and “protecting” Lucy Letby has been suspended from the NHS hospital she works in, it has emerged.

Alison Kelly, who was the chief nurse at the time Letby killed and attacked babies at the Countess of Chester Hospital, has been suspended from Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust in Salford.

Letby was convicted last week of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six more in 2015 and 2016 while working at the Countess of Chester. She has now been given a whole life sentence.

Police are now probing the cases of 4,000 babies at Liverpool Women’s Hospital before Letby moved to the neo-natal unit at the Countess.

In the wake of the Letby verdict, who is considered the most prolific serial killer in recent history, Ms Kelly was accused of ignoring concerns raised by doctors from as early as June 2015 and being “protective” over Letby.

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She is one of three directors from the Countess of Chester who have been publicly criticised, alongside former medical director Ian Harvey who is retired and living in France, and former chief executive Tony Chamber. Mr Chambers up until this summer worked at a Queen Victoria Hospital in West Sussex.

Nicky Clarke, chief people officer at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I can confirm Alison Kelly has been suspended. We are unable to comment any further at this moment in time.”

In response to allegations, Ms Kelly said on Friday: “It is impossible to imagine the heartache suffered by the families involved and my thoughts are very much with them.

“These are truly terrible crimes and I am deeply sorry that this happened to them.

“We owe it to the babies and their families to learn lessons and I will fully cooperate with the independent inquiry announced.”

In response to the verdict, the Department for Health and Social Care announced an independent inquiry which will look into the failings by the NHS hospital.

However, families have called for the inquiry to be converted into a full public inquiry able to compel evidence and witnesses.

The case has shone a spotlight on the NHS whistleblowing system, with The Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) calling for it to be overhauled.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “We welcome the independent inquiry announced by the Department of Health and Social Care into the events at the Countess of Chester and will cooperate fully to help ensure all lessons are learned.

“In light of information that has emerged during the trial of Lucy Letby, and the announcement of the independent inquiry, the Northern Care Alliance has suspended Alison Kelly.”

Reacting to the guilty verdicts on Friday, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens said there must be a “significant” improvement in NHS leadership and culture.

“We need to see significant improvements to culture and leadership across the NHS so that the voices of staff and patients can be heard, both with regard to everyday pressures and mistakes and, very exceptionally, when there are warnings of real evil.”

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