Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust was fined £800,000 after pleading guilty to two charges related to the death of an infant, baby Wynter Andrews on 15 September 2019. More than 100 families have had similar experiences. Following significant concerns regarding the quality and safety of the maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the complaints raised by local families, NHS England made the decision to establish an independent review.
The review officially began in 2021. However, on 26 May 2022, Donna Ockenden was appointed as Chair of the new independent review into the maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. Donna Ockenden is leading a team of experienced doctors and midwifes working in maternity services across England, to review cases of serious, and potentially very serious, concerns regarding the maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
On 15 August 2022, Donna Ockenden called for families who believe that they have been seriously affected by their maternity care and treatment at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to contact the independent review team. Those families that were approached included those who have suffered stillbirths, neonatal deaths from 24 weeks gestation up to 28 days of life, babies diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (Cerebral palsy) and other brain injuries as well as maternal deaths up to 42 days post-partum and other severe maternal harm.
Unlike the independent review of the maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, this review relied upon an opt in process, requiring families to contact the independent review team for their case to be included in the review.
Over the following months, Donna Ockenden and her team have continued to reach out to families in the local community to have their cases included in the review. The review team made contact with Nottinghamshire MPs and City Councillors in the Nottingham area as well as contacting a number of community groups. In addition to this, the review team reached out to staff through the Staff Voices Initiative which was launched in October 2022. The aim of this initiative was to appeal to staff, both past and present, to give an anonymous account of their experiences within the maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
Donna Ockenden and her team have sent out letters to 1,377 families to ask whether they would like their cases to be included within the review, however they only received a response from 360 families. Of those contacted only 27% of white women responded to be included in the review whilst the response rate was much lower for black and Asian women, with only 10% of black women responding and 5% of Asian women. This sample is clearly not a representative sample of the diversity which exists within Nottingham.
This led to the review team and the families requesting that the review be carried out on an opt out basis, as the previous independent review led by Donna Ockenden was.
On 10 July 2023, the Trust’s annual meeting was held. In attendance was Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust’s chairman, Nick Carver as well as Donna Ockenden and some of the bereaved families. Nick Carver acknowledged that more needed to be done to gain the trust of the families and communities and he said that he was committed to ‘working collaboratively to plan for an apology on behalf of the board that the families recognise as meaningful’. The Trust pledges for a new honest and transparent relationship.
NHS England has written to the affected families to confirm that the cases will now be dealt with on an opt out basis, with families having to opt out of giving consent for their case to be used in the review. It is hoped that this will give the review team a sample that is representative of the whole community in Nottingham.
Donna Ockenden has commented that she continues to keep her promise to the families to do all she can to ensure that this review is one for all Nottinghamshire families. Donna Ockenden reassured the families in attendance at the meeting on 10 July 2023, that she has seen some positive changes in response to the family accounts, but there is still a long journey ahead.
Donna summarised that what has happened at Nottingham University NHS Trust cannot be fixed overnight. Donna Ockenden and her team will continue to review the cases in preparation of the independent review, and it is estimated that the final report will be published in March 2024.
If you believe you or your child have been affected by the issues described above, please do not hesitate to contact our professional and friendly team, on a confidential and no obligation basis.
Article written by Kirsten Walker