NHS could face biggest maternity scandal ever as Nottingham probe expected to exceed 1,500 cases

Review into care failures revealed by The Independent more than doubles

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Tuesday 29 November 2022 21:57 GMT
Bereaved parents demand answers over poor maternity care at Nottingham hospital

The NHS could be facing its largest maternity scandal to date as the review into services in Nottingham is now expected to exceed 1,500 cases, The Independent has learned.

The probe began in 2021 after this newspaper revealed dozens of babies had died or been left with serious injuries or brain damage as a result of care at NUH, which runs Nottingham’s City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC).

But the scope of the investigation has more than doubled, with Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust sending more than 1,000 letters to families to contact the independent inquiry, after 700 families previously came forward with their concerns.

Of these, the number of families expected to be covered by the probe is more than 1,500 – surpassing the 1,486 examined during the UK’s current largest maternity scandal in Shrewsbury.

Have you been impacted by this story? Email rebecca.thomas@independent.co.uk

The timeframe of the Nottingham investigation is also shorter, covering incidents from 2012 onward compared to Shrewsbury, where cases spanned from 1973 to 2020, with the majority occurring since the year 2000.

Families approached by the Nottingham trust include those who’ve suffered stillbirths, neonatal deaths from 24 weeks gestation up to 28 days of life, babies diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and another brain injury, maternal deaths up to 42 days post-part and severe maternal harm.

Jack and Sarah Hawkins with daughter Harriet ( )

Bereaved parents who have previously spoken out claimed families were “ignored” by caregivers at the trust, and have long called for an independent inquiry.

Not all families who have received new letters from the trust will have had notice of potential poor care, The Independent understands.

Sarah Hawkins, who lost her daughter Harriet in 2016 following negligence by staff at Nottingham City Hospital told The Independent: “It is truly devastating to begin to learn the extent of harm that has been happening to families in Nottinghamshire.

“Having all once stood alone isolated in our grief and harm we are now surrounded by a large and growing number of families.

“To anyone receiving a letter about their care, we as families would like to offer our strength and support at such a challenging time. We would urge people to contact the review team. They are approachable and kind.”

When reporting on the scandal in 2021, The Independent revealed that in some instances, key medical notes were missing or never made, while others were completely inaccurate.

Ms Hawkins said she was ‘devastated’ by the extent of the scandal (Jack and Sarah Hawkins)

The NHS trust failed to properly investigate some deaths for months and, in instances when it did, details were wrong or reviews were watered down by senior management to lessen the criticism.

A whistleblower previously claimed a “Teflon team” of managers allowed staffing shortages to build up to dangerous levels, while pleas from midwives were ignored and incidents “swept under the carpet”.

Millions of pounds have already been paid out by the trust following hundreds of clinical negligence claims.

The initial review launched last year was replaced after families complained and is now being led by Donna Ockenden, who chaired the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SATH) maternity inquiry.

The SATH report, published in the spring, found 300 babies had died or become brain injured out of just over 1,592 incidents across 1,486 families analysed by the review team.

Donna Ockenden will chair the independent review (PA)

The new review into Nottingham began in September and it is estimated the final report will be published in March 2024.

Ms Ockenden told The Independent: “We recognise that it can be difficult to receive [these] letters with such sad content. The review team is available to provide support where needed [to families] and a reminder that we can’t access medical records without [families’] permission.

“So please do respond to the letter and if you’ve got any questions get in touch with the team.”

The news comes following the publication of the inquiry into maternity failings in East Kent, which found poor care may have led to the deaths of 45 babies, with 97 cases of harm.

The probe will look into hundreds of cases (PA)

Sara Ledger, head of research and development at Baby Lifeline, said: “The fact that so many families are coming forward for the Nottingham maternity review is extremely significant. It demonstrates how many lives are being affected by problems in our NHS maternity services, and how important these reviews are, in terms of enabling families’ voices to be heard.

“There have now been many high-profile investigations into maternity safety within NHS Trusts up and down the country, which have, in turn, produced stringent recommendations and clarity around immediate and essential actions.

“The Independent Review into Maternity Services at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS, which is being led by Baby Lifeline honorary president Donna Ockenden, will contribute yet more evidence and recommendations to those made in the previous investigations.”

A spokeswoman for NUH said: “Alongside Donna Ockenden, we have written to more than 1,000 families identified as having maternity cases potentially relevant to the independent review of our maternity services (based on the five categories identified in the terms of reference).

“Letters will start arriving this week containing information about the review and how people can get involved if they want to.”

“We are committed to making the necessary and sustainable improvements to our maternity services and this is why we will continue to do all we can to support the work of the independent review.”

If anyone has serious or significant concerns about their maternity care, you can contact the review team at nottsreview@donnaockenden.com or call 01243 786 993.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in