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    Morecambe Bay Hospital Trust – 50 Maternity Deaths to Be Investigated

    Published on: 04/11/2014

    Deaths of over 50 mothers and babies are to be investigated in an independent enquiry. Government ordered the investigation into practices at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust after allegations that regulators had tried to cover up what was going on in the hospitals.

    Calls for the investigation come hot on the heels of the deaths of at least eight women and babies at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria. Documents gathered during the investigation show that there has been a review carried out of over 200 deaths of women and their babies between 2004 and 2013.

    50 of the deaths which were looked at caused such concern that the circumstances surrounding them are now being looked at in more detail. The cases being reviewed include mothers who died during or shortly after labour, babies which were stillborn, or neo-natal deaths.

    The Morecambe Bay Trust is already involved in at least 30 medical negligence claims involving parents whose babies died or who were victims of substandard care at the Trust.

    The man leading the investigation is Dr Bill Kirkup, an experienced deputy chief medical officer who was involved in both the Hillsborough and Saville enquiries. He has asked former health ministers to provide evidence for the investigation. Recent minutes of the investigation panel meetings reveal that they have had to plan for sending “reminders” to former Ministers who had not replied to their first requests for information.

    Labour politicians have attracted criticism for saying that that role of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was to “restore public confidence in the NHS” as this was seen by some as politicians exerting pressure on the CQC not to make hospital failings public. There has been growing criticism of the CQC, and this has led to a change in the way inspections are carried out, along with a new range of Ofsted-style ratings.

    The investigation will publish findings in November, and has already spoken to former chief executives of the CQC and the NHS.

    Maternity unit concerns since 2010

    As far back as March 2010, an internal review by the Trust found that there were concerns about the running of the maternity unit, and flagged up issues around poorly-trained midwives and poor relationships between staff.

    Officials from the CQC did not read the Trust’s internal findings and just a few months later inspected the Trust as a whole, and gave it a rating of “safe”. By 2011 the Trust concerned had 600 “excess deaths” compared to the previous four years, and had the highest mortality rate in England.

    In summer 2013 a further investigation accused the CQC of trying to bury an internal document which laid out the Trust’s failings. CQC former officials strongly deny that there were any plans to delete this document.

    A CQC whistleblower also alleged that he had been forced to leave his job before the last General Election in 2010 because he was being too vocal about poor care in hospitals to the media.

    In 2013, the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, announced plans for an independent investigation into the Maternity and Neonatal services at the Morecambe Bay Trust. The investigation is being held in private, and will release findings in November 2014.

    Problems are still unresolved at the Trust, which is struggling to hang on to its maternity staff. It is currently having to bring in staff from up to 200 miles away to continue providing an adequate level of care for patients.

    Lost a baby or other loved one at Morecambe Bay Hospital? Think You Have A Medical Negligence Claim?

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