Nottingham Maternity: ‘Scandal’ inquiry required as baby deaths hit record high

Exclusive: A ‘scandal’ inquiry is required as deaths of babies at Nottingham University Hospitals trust reach record levels By Eleanor Hayward, Health correspondent6 May 2021 • 8:27pm Doctors and midwives are said to have ‘sounded the alarm’ over patient safety as the trust becomes ‘not fit for purpose’ An inquiry into the maternity scandal at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust is required after the trust recorded the highest number of baby deaths in its history, an investigation by The Independent reveals.  The trust, which came under fire last year over the death of a newborn baby in 2019, has been accused of failing to improve patient safety and address concerns raised by its own staff. An investigation by The Independent has found that the number of babies who died during or shortly after birth at the trust in 2019-20 was the highest on record, despite the number of births decreasing. The trust recorded 40 stillbirths and 15 newborn deaths, a total of 55 deaths, in 2019-20. This was up from a total of 47 deaths in 2018-19 and is the highest number of deaths recorded by the trust since at least 2012-13, when comparable records began. The Independent’s investigation was based on data from the NHS Digital database of maternity statistics. A Freedom of Information request revealed that serious incidents relating to patient safety at the trust – which is rated ‘requires improvement’ by the Care Quality Commission – more than doubled in the past year.  The most recent data available shows there were 148 ‘never events’ – serious, largely preventable incidents that should not occur in well-run NHS services – in 2020-21, up from 69 the previous year. Sources within the trust have told The Independent that the figures are a “scandal” and that staff have been “sounding the alarm” over patient safety for years. A whistleblower with knowledge of the trust’s maternity services told The Independent: “Staff have repeatedly raised concerns but they are not being acted upon. They have been brushed under the carpet.” The whistleblower added: “The trust is not fit for purpose. There are lots of experienced labour ward nurses leaving, because they are so concerned about patient safety, but no action is being taken to address the concerns.” In October 2020, The Independent revealed that a baby had died at the trust in 2019 after a series of errors by staff.  An internal review of the case by the trust found that “maternity services had not learned from past incidents” and that “the care and treatment provided fell below that which a woman should expect”.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) subsequently launched an investigation into the case and the trust was told it was in breach of six regulations relating to safe care and treatment. The CQC also carried out an unannounced inspection of the trust’s maternity services in December 2020 and found that “improvements were still required” in a number of areas, including patient safety, staff training and addressing concerns raised by staff.   A spokesperson for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Our maternity service provides care to over 6,000 women each year. We know that we need to improve the quality of our services and we are working hard to do so. “We are working closely with our staff, the CQC and other partners to make sure that our services are as safe as they can be and that we provide the best possible care to our patients.”.

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