Kent

Jeremy Hunt calls for public inquiry into NHS after baby deaths

Jeremy Hunt Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Hunt said 'why do these mistakes appear to be repeating themselves?'

The former health secretary has called for an inquiry into the safety of NHS maternity services following reports of avoidable baby deaths in hospitals.

Jeremy Hunt told the Independent the inquiry should investigate if the safety of mothers and babies has been "compromised in any part of the NHS".

Last month the BBC discovered at least seven preventable deaths at East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust since 2016.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust is also under investigation.

Mr Hunt is now chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which scrutinises the Department of Health and Social Care and associated agencies and bodies.

He asked: "Why do these mistakes appear to be repeating themselves?

"Why is it that despite enormous effort, we still appear in parts of the NHS to have a defensive culture when things go wrong?"

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption During an inquest in January, it emerged Harry Richford died following hospital failings

It comes after a coroner found the death of seven-day-old baby Harry Richford at a hospital operated by the East Kent trust was "wholly avoidable".

The NHS's Healthcare Safety Branch is now investigating 25 maternity cases at the trust's hospitals in Margate and Ashford.

It was originally 26 cases, but one of those was removed from the investigation, the trust announced on Friday.

Health minister Nadine Dorries also confirmed about 900 cases of baby deaths dating back 40 years at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust are being investigated under the Ockenden Review.

That public inquiry was launched in 2017 and is yet to reveal its official report.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "We want the NHS to be the safest place in the world to have a baby and we're committed to transforming maternity services as part the NHS Long Term Plan, backed by an extra £33.9 billion a year by 2023/24."

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