East Kent baby deaths: Former trust chair demands openness

The former chair of a hospital trust Peter Carter
Image caption Dr Peter Carter said the trust needs to help the parents move on

The former chair of a hospital trust under investigation over baby deaths, said it must be open about its mistakes and "own" its culpability.

Last month a BBC investigation discovered at least seven preventable deaths had occurred at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust since 2016.

The NHS's Healthcare Safety Branch is now investigating 26 maternity cases at the hospitals in Margate and Ashford.

The trust has declined to comment until the investigations are concluded.

Last week the trust's chief executive Susan Acott admitted failings in relation to one baby, Harry Richford, and apologised to the family.

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Dr Peter Carter, the former interim trust chairman, said: "The whole culture and the mentality should be that 'this baby belongs to these parents'.

"There should be early engagement, complete openness. Invite the parents in - some hospitals do it really well - open the books and be clear.

"If sadly there is culpability, as quickly as possible, own that. Then you've got a chance of helping the parents to move on."

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption During an inquest in January, it emerged Harry Richford would have survived but for failings by the hospital

The trust handles almost 7,000 births a year and in November 2017 Harry Richford died seven days after his birth at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

A coroner ruled Harry's death was "wholly avoidable" and was contributed to by hospital neglect.

Inspectors at the Care Quality Commission are considering a possible criminal investigation, and Kent County Councillor Karen Constantine has demanded a public inquiry.

The Labour councillor said: "If we have to stop short of a public inquiry, then we need a deep dive into the safety culture, and I think it needs to be broader than maternity."

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