Parents fear babies still at risk at Nottingham hospitals

By Michael Buchanan & Caroline Lowbridge
BBC News

  • Published
Sarah and Gary Andrews with their sonImage source, Bhasker Solanki
Image caption,
Sarah and Gary Andrews now have a nine-month-old son

The parents of a baby who died after failings by maternity staff in Nottingham say they are "very concerned" problems remain years later.

Sarah and Gary Andrews spoke after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said significant improvements must be made at the city's maternity units.

Donna Ockenden, who led an inquiry into the Shropshire maternity scandal, has also been appointed to chair a review into Nottingham's maternity services.

It follows dozens of baby deaths.

The couple's daughter, Wynter, died 23 minutes after being born on 15 September 2019 at the city's Queen's Medical Centre.

After studying the CQC report, Mrs Andrews said: "We're very concerned. We think there's been a very long time since Wynter died, since the recommendations were made by the coroner.

"There has been a very long time for the trust to rectify these, and we feel it's concerning there are still such problems going on."

Image source, Sarah Andrews
Image caption,
Wynter Andrews died 23 minutes after being born on 15 September 2019

NHS maternity services in Nottingham are based at the Nottingham City Hospital and Queen's Medical Centre, and were initially rated as inadequate in 2020.

The latest reports said maternity services at both sites remained inadequate overall.

In November 2018, almost a year before Wynter died, a group of whistleblowers including midwives and midwifery support workers wrote to the chair of Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust.

They described "inadequate staffing" as the "cause of a potential disaster". They also said staff were "burnt out" and "working in fear".

Mr Andrews said his daughter's death was "the disaster that was foreseen".

"There's a national shortage [of midwives], which we recognise, but I think the problem at Nottingham is the problem was allowed to get so bad, I think it was in excess of being kind of 70 midwives short," he said.

"Then when you read the 2018 whistleblower letter that warned of the culture and the treatment by managers of staff, and they were leaving as a direct result, it's worrying and we're now in 2022, and we understand that actually midwives aren't happy and people have been leaving."

Image source, LDRS
Image caption,
Whistleblowers raised concerns about maternity care at the Queen's Medical Centre before Wynter Andrews died

Mrs Andrews said she was "delighted" Donna Ockenden had been appointed to lead the review in Nottingham.

"We feel it's something that has been much-needed. Families need to have confidence in the review, and it needs to make real and meaningful changes going forwards," she said.

The original review, which has concluded and published its interim report on Thursday, had faced sustained criticism from families and campaigners over its remit and independence.

Mr Andrews said Ms Ockenden's appointment was a "beacon of light".

"It was apparent that the review that we did have, it was widely accepted that it wasn't fit for purpose, it was woefully inadequate," he said.

"She [Donna Ockenden] comes with the respect of kind of a network of bereaved families, in Shrewsbury and Telford, and she's truly independent."

Image source, Bhasker Solanki
Image caption,
Kimberley Errington said the CQC report confirmed what she and her partner already knew

Kimberley Errington, whose son Teddy died in November 2020, said she was not surprised by the latest CQC report.

"It's a reiteration of the usual things, you know, staffing is a major problem," she said.

"It's saying what we knew, where as a lot was coming out in the press about maybe 'Oh, you know, things are getting better', or the NUH board are trying to make it seem like things are getting better, when we know it's not, so at least now it's in black and white and it's out there for the public to see."

Teddy died when he was a day old, after he had been sent home. Ms Errington said her experience in hospital was "horrendous".

"I feel like we were dumped, and we were left for 19 hours abandoned," she said.

"When I did ask for support, which I did numerous times, I was dismissed or made to feel like a nuisance.

"So by four o'clock that next morning, when they said I could go, I wanted to get out and get home so I could have some support."

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Teddy's death was recorded as "unascertained" in a narrative verdict by the coroner

Teddy then collapsed at home and was taken to the Queen's Medical Centre, where he died.

Following an inquest, assistant coroner Laurinda Bower said his cause of death was "unascertained" but midwives had failed to monitor his blood sugar levels before he went home.

She said there had been "undoubted failings" by healthcare professionals.

In response to the latest CQC report, Sharon Wallis, director of midwifery at NUH, said: "Our teams are working hard to make the necessary improvements, but recognise we have more to do and are absolutely determined to speed up the pace of change and deliver quality services for women and their families."

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