Harry Richford death: NHS boss criticised boy's grandfather in letter

Harry Richford Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Harry Richford suffered irreversible brain damage during resuscitation delays

An NHS boss has apologised for suggesting the family of a dead child had tried to tarnish the name of the hospital where he was born.

Harry Richford died seven days after his birth at the QEQM Hospital in Margate, Kent, in November 2017.

In a letter, East Kent Trust chief executive Susan Acott said Harry's grandad Derek had tried to "undermine the reputation of the entire hospital".

She said she was "truly sorry" for the remark which was made in June.

A coroner ruled Harry's death was "wholly avoidable" and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is investigating 26 maternity cases at the trust.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption The inquest was told Harry would have survived but for failings by the hospital

Last week a BBC investigation found at least seven preventable baby deaths had occurred at the trust, which has five hospitals and community clinics, and handles almost 7,000 births a year.

In the letter addressed to North Thanet MP Roger Gale, dated 7 June 2019, Ms Acott wrote: "We all fully appreciate and sympathise with Derek Richford.

"Trying to undermine the reputation of the entire hospital and deny it resources doesn't help or improve the situation for future parents and our existing staff however.

"What we need to do is learn from what went wrong in Harry Richford's case and we are determined to do that."

'Great sadness'

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ms Acott said the letter had been written in response to a specific point raised by the family's MP.

She said "our nurses, doctors and midwives work incredibly hard and come to work every day to make a positive difference to people's lives", and it is important people "feel safe to use their local hospital".

Ms Acott added: "I fully accept with great sadness that as a Trust we failed Harry Richford and his family in many ways... I'm truly sorry that my words to their MP have added to the Richford family's pain."

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch is examining 26 individual maternity cases at the trust and the Care Quality Commission carried out an unplanned inspection last week.

Both will report within two weeks, at which point the options for further action will be assessed.

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