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NUH Maternity Scandal Revealed By Channel 4 News And The Independent

Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre (QMC) is one of the hospitals scrutinised by the investigation.
India Rose Campbell and Lauren McGaun

This article discusses issues of a sensitive nature.

An investigation carried out by Channel 4 News and The Independent has found that dozens of babies have died or been left with brain damage at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS trust maternity units.

Figures show that from 2010 to 2020, at least 46 babies have suffered brain damage and 19 have been stillborn, as well as 15 deaths at the units involving mothers and babies.

Sarah Hawkins, who previously worked as a senior physiotherapist at NUH, is calling for an independent inquiry. Her daughter Harriet was stillborn in 2016 at one of the trust’s hospitals, dying before she could take her first breath.

According to the investigation, Mrs Hawkins spent five days in labour and was given an inappropriately high dose of the pain relief drug diamorphine. She also explained how there was a delay in monitoring the foetal heart and information was not recorded correctly.

Sarah spoke of how the trust had let her down

Speaking on the heart-breaking experience, Sarah spoke of how the trust had let her down.

“They didn’t listen to me… I’d love the trust to have this guilt [that I feel]. Other babies have died since Harriet and we are the ones here trying to improve things. I wish they would accept that.”

Following the incident, it took NUH 159 days to declare a serious untoward incident investigation, which then lead to an external review into Harriet’s case. A spokesperson for the trust has since stated that the hospital has “recognised on a number of occasions” that there were “deficiencies” in the Hawkins’ care and they are committed to improving.

201 claims were made against the trust between 2010 and 2020

Within their investigation, Channel 4 News and The Independent found evidence of what they reported as poor care and record keeping alongside a ‘growing culture of fear’.

Data from NHS Resolution, a government arbitration and compensation body, shows 201 claims were made against the trust between 2010 and 2020, 84 of which have since been settled. Diving deeper, it was found a further six claims were made from 2011 to 2012, where just under £14.5 million was paid out. According to NHS Resolution, last year, there were 14 claims in the process of being settled with more than £91million being paid out in the past decade.

The inquest also heard that the maternity unit at the Queen’s Medical Centre operated in a “fundamentally unsafe manner”, with it being regularly understaffed, as it was on the day Wynter Andrews was born, and died, on September 15, 2019. An inquest subsequently found “gross failings” contributed to her death.

Former senior midwife at NUH, Sue Brydon, said that the Nottingham City Hospital maternity unit operated under a “culture of fear”, adding that managers in the units were a “Teflon Team”, failing to listen to concerns whilst vacancies were allowed to build up. This then led to staff being stretched which, alongside a serious lack of beds, resulted in at-risk women facing delays for treatment. She did, however, praise many of the staff for working hard to maintain safety.

After an inspection from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last October, “several serious concerns were identified”. The health watchdog found poor risk management and gave the units an “inadequate” rating, with the trust being served a “warning notice”. Whilst CQC inspectors returned in May this year to find some improvements, they still noted areas that needed addressing to ensure the utmost safety for mothers and their babies.

Nottingham South MP, Lilian Greenwood, took to Twitter to make a statement on the investigation. Greenwood tweets how she met with Jack and Sarah Hawkins, and together they then met the Nottingham University Hospital Trust’s then Chief Executive in 2017, who “promised they would learn lessons from Harriet’s death and do all they could to ensure that no other families faced the same horrific situation. I believed him.”

She then goes on to explain how she was “devastated” when she learnt about Wynter Andrews’ death.

“There were such striking similarities with Harriet’s case. It was impossible to believe the Trust’s latest promises to improve, knowing that I’d heard precisely the same promises four years earlier.”

“We urgently need to understand what is happening at NUH to ensure every mother and baby gets the safe care they need.”

Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospitals, Tracy Taylor, issued a statement in response: “We apologise from the bottom of our hearts to the families who have not received the high level of care they need and deserve, we recognise the effects have been devastating.”

A cross party group of MPs wrote to the former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, expressing deep concern

“Improving maternity services is a top priority and we are making significant changes including hiring and training more midwives and introducing digital maternity records. We will continue to listen to women and families, whether they have received excellent care or where care has fallen short; it is their experiences that will help us to learn and improve our services.”

Channel 4 News revealed in a follow up programme that a cross party group of MPs wrote to the former Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, expressing deep concern over the practices of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, but they never received a reply.

Concerns raised from participants in the investigation highlight the similarities to previous maternity scandals, such as Shewsbury and Telford hospitals.

The Care Quality Commission is now investigating whether a criminal offence was committed by the trust.

Support for the issues raised in this article can be found here.

India Rose Campbell and Lauren McGaun


Featured image courtesy of alan feebery on Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In-article videos 1 and 2 courtesy of Channel 4 News via youtube.com. No changes were made to these videos.

In-article image 1 courtesy of @Jeremy_Hunt via twitter.com. In-article image 2 courtesy of @LilianGreenwood via twitter.com. No changes were made to these images.

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