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Government orders independent inquiry into Letby case

City of Chester MP Samantha Dixon had called for a ‘full, independent and public inquiry’.

Storm Newton
Friday 18 August 2023 18:35 BST
Health Secretary Steve Barclay expressed his ‘deepest sympathy to all the parents and families impacted by this horrendous case’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA)
Health Secretary Steve Barclay expressed his ‘deepest sympathy to all the parents and families impacted by this horrendous case’ (Jordan Pettitt/PA) (PA Wire)

The Government has ordered an independent inquiry into the Lucy Letby case, after the nurse was found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others.

The Government said it will investigate the circumstances behind the crimes to ensure “vital lessons are learned”.

It will also look at the handling of concerns raised by staff at the hospital and what action was taken by regulators and the wider health service.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said: “I would like to send my deepest sympathy to all the parents and families impacted by this horrendous case.

“This inquiry will seek to ensure the parents and families impacted get the answers they need. I am determined their voices are heard, and they are involved in shaping the scope of the inquiry should they wish to do so.

“Following on from the work already underway by NHS England, it will help us identify where and how patient safety standards failed to be met and ensure mothers and their partners rightly have faith in our healthcare system.”

An inquiry chairman will be appointed in due course.

Lord Bichard, who conducted the 2003 inquiry into child protection following the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman in Soham a year earlier, said the parents of Letby’s victims should be able to “meet and question any proposed chair” ahead of their appointment.

The crossbench peer also said he was “slightly surprised” ministers had not put the inquiry into the Letby case onto a statutory footing.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme whether the inquiry could have less power as a result, he said: “It doesn’t have to be toothless.

“You have a huge weight of public opinion behind you if you are chairing an inquiry like this. And that will make it very difficult for someone you want to interview to say no.

“But if you can set up a statutory inquiry, why not set up a statutory inquiry? I don’t know.”

City of Chester MP Samantha Dixon had called for a “full, independent and public inquiry” into the case.

Her statement said: “The families that have endured this unimaginable suffering deserve to know exactly what happened, and those who use our NHS services need the reassurance that it can never happen again.

“Too many people now live with the consequences of the catastrophic harm caused by Letby.”

Ms Dixon’s call was echoed by the parents of two of Letby’s victims.

The couple said they felt “very, very let down” by bosses at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

Letby attacked their newborn twin sons in April 2016, poisoning Child L with insulin and injecting air into his brother, Child M.

The boys’ father said: “There’s no way she should have been able to get away with it for so long.”

Child M made a sudden “miracle” recovery following no spontaneous response to six doses of adrenaline over 30 minutes, the trial heard. His twin also survived.

However, the parents were unaware Child L had received unprescribed insulin as hospital medics failed to inform them.

Letby, 33, was not in the dock when the verdict was reached at Manchester Crown Court on Friday.

She was accused of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder a further 10 while working at the hospital’s neonatal unit between June 2015 and June 2016. She denied all charges.

The jury could not reach verdicts on six counts of attempted murder.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Rob Behrens called for “significant improvements to culture and leadership” following the guilty verdict.

He claims “nobody listened and nothing happened” when clinicians expressed concern about issues in the hospital’s neonatal unit.

It emerged during the trial that consultants who raised concerns about Letby were told by hospital bosses to apologise to her formally in writing.

The nurse put in a grievance against her employer in September 2016, the trial heard.

She had been redeployed from the hospital’s neonatal unit and put on clerical duties after two triplet boys died under her care and another baby boy collapsed on three successive days three months earlier.

The grievance procedure was resolved in Letby’s favour and she was due to return to the unit in March 2017. However, the hospital contacted police before this could happen.

The court heard that concerns were first raised about Letby’s association to an increase in baby collapses in June 2015 by Dr Stephen Brearey.

Dr Ravi Jayaram, consultant paediatrician at the Countess of Chester Hospital, told the court he had “significant concerns from the autumn of 2015” following the death of a baby girl.

He added: “As clinicians, we put our faith in the system, in senior management to escalate concerns and investigate them. The initial response was ‘it’s unlikely that anything is going on. We’ll see what happens’.”

Fellow consultant Dr John Gibbs told the court that a “tipping point” was reached in June 2016 with the deaths of two triplet boys, Child O and P, on successive days.

He said: “I remember feeling uncomfortable when I arrived on the unit and saw (Child O) and I thought ‘Oh no, not another one’.”

Dr Gibbs told the court that consultants had to “resolutely resist” attempts by management to return Letby to the unit up to the point when police launched an investigation in May 2017.

He said the doctors demanded the installation of CCTV in each room in the unit if she was permitted to nurse again but hospital bosses were “extremely reluctant” to involve the police.

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