Families affected by maternity care failings at an under-review NHS trust have said they “expect action” against those responsible for the death and harm of hundreds of babies and mothers.
The Nottingham Families Maternity Group said that while progress had been made, no senior leaders or staff at the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUHT) had been sanctioned and at times had been “rewarding” unsafe care.
Friday marks the first anniversary of the independent review into care failings at NUHT, led by Donna Ockenden, which the families said has brought “much-needed relief”.
While the group welcomed co-operation from NUHT, which has pledged to publicly apologise to affected families in due course, the families called for a police investigation into whether anyone is criminally culpable.
They said: “To date, not a single person – clinical staff, managerial staff, board member, commissioner, governance lead – has been held to account for the known, avoidable and predictable failures.
“How is this possible? Local coroners have concluded ‘neglect’ in multiple inquests.
“This, along with the high number of medical negligence cases, should surely trigger disciplinary processes.
“Fortunately, there is a change now. The new NUHT chair and chief executive said at the recent Annual Public Meeting (APM) that the new relationship with the people using NUH’s services includes accountability.
“This is a huge weight taken from families’ shoulders.
“It has been our feeling that previous NUH boards have been protecting inadequate and unsafe care, allowing it to continue and even rewarding it at times.
“This explains why we continue to be contacted by families who have been recently harmed.
“This change in values by the board leaders is welcomed. To date, you can cause horrific harm at NUH with no consequence, but now we expect accountability.
“We expect action; just as there would be if a baby or mother had died or suffered a horrific injury in any other circumstance.”
Families are hoping to meet with Nottinghamshire Police’s Chief Constable, Kate Meynell, to discuss whether a criminal investigation could be launched.
The review into the failings is examining more than 1,700 cases, with more than 650 staff also coming forward to share concerns.
Felicity Benyon had her bladder incorrectly removed by NUHT in an emergency hysterectomy during the delivery of her second child in 2015.
She said she was blamed for the error, which has caused her to suffer sepsis and septicaemia, and now lives with a urostomy stoma bag.
The 37-year-old, from Mansfield, accepts that NUHT is improving but she says she wouldn’t touch the trust “with a barge pole” as she does not yet feel it has progressed sufficiently.
Speaking about whether criminal charges should be brought, she said: “It’s about what’s right being done.
“It’s about if someone has broken the law, they need to be held accountable.
“If someone has caused harm and danger and they are potentially going to cause harm and danger again, we need to prevent that from happening.
“We’re here today with an open book of nearly 1,800 families who NUHT have admitted to harming.
“That’s a huge number. That averages out at over three a week that are coming to serious harm over a 10-year period.
“Families need to feel something’s been done.”
In July, Ms Ockenden announced that hundreds more cases would be investigated after NHS England agreed that families would have to opt out of being included.
The families said: “Even very recently, we have fought for the review to be a comprehensive one, to ensure all families whose harm fits the categories and years outlined by the review are automatically included.
“It’s only in recent months that we have received support from several board members of NHS England, support that again, we have fought for but for which we’re very grateful.
“We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, and aunts who will continue our fight until there is accountability and change.”
Anthony May, chief executive of NUHT, said that it had “prioritised our engagement” with the review and that it was “committed to making the necessary improvements”.
He said: “We work closely with the review team led by Donna Ockenden and meet regularly with the team to listen to the feedback, respond accordingly and inform our improvement plan.
“We are determined to fulfil the commitment we made in July to an open and honest relationship with the families involved in the review and all women and families within our maternity services.
“We still have a long way, but our communities can be assured that maternity services are improving and we are making sustainable progress in a number of areas to benefit the safety and wellbeing of women, families and staff as part of our Maternity Improvement Programme.
“We are focused on learning from incidents, improving our culture and communicating more effectively with women and families that use our services.”
Nottinghamshire Police has been approached for comment.