Massive baby deaths scandal sparks police probe into Nottingham maternity failings

Police are preparing to launch an investigation into maternity cases of “potentially significant concern” at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUHT).

Chief Constable Kate Meynell said the decision came after a meeting with Donna Ockenden, who is leading the Nottingham maternity inquiry into the deaths of babies and poor care over more than a decade.

She said: “We want to work alongside the review but also ensure that we do not hinder its progress. However, I am in a position to say we are preparing to launch a police investigation.”

It comes as the inquiry is set to examine 1,800 cases in what could be the UK’s largest-ever maternity scandal, first uncovered by The Independent in 2021.

Families of babies affected by the review have “welcomed” the force’s decision to launch an investigation.

In a statement, they said: “A large number of us have alleged crimes and we will be sharing our evidence with the police to assist them with their investigations.”

“We anticipate that we will be meeting with the chief constable soon to understand what the police investigation will mean for each and every one of us. We hope and believe it will encompass not just the care of individuals who have dead and seriously harmed babies and mothers, but also what families allege is a far-reaching cover-up by NUHT and NHS staff.”

Jack and Sarah Hawkins who lost their baby Harriet following a catalogue of failings by the trust in 2016, complained to police at the time.

The Nottingham police probe follows another by West Mercie Police which was launched into deaths linked to the maternity scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital.

Announcing that an investigation was being prepared, Ms Meynell said: “We are currently looking at the work being done in Shrewsbury and Telford by West Mercia Police to understand how they conducted their investigation alongside Donna Ockenden’s review and any lessons learnt.

“Now we have met with Donna Ockenden we plan to hold preliminary discussions with some local families in the near future.”

Ms Ockenden confirmed in July that the review into baby deaths had swelled but warned the numbers could be even larger depending on how many more families come forward.

The chief executive of NUHT, Anthony May, who inherited the scandal when he came into office last September, has “committed to fully cooperate” with the police investigation, the force said.

He said: “From the time of my appointment at NUH, I have expressed my commitment to the Independent Review. I have given the same commitment to the Chief Constable in respect of any police investigation.

“I also reiterate the commitment we made to the families involved at our Annual Public Meeting in July of an honest and transparent relationship with them.

“My colleagues and I work closely with the review team led by Donna Ockenden, to ensure transparent and full engagement. This includes meeting regularly with Donna in order to listen and take action on feedback.”

The review into maternity services provided by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) came after The Independent uncovered poor care over more than a decade, revealing failures in the cases of 61 babies.

In July this year, new concerns over the trust’s treatment of Black and minority ethnic mothers were raised by Ms Ockenden in a letter. She flagged the treatment of Urdu-speaking women as an issue, including an example of one who did not speak English and had no option but to call her mother in Pakistan to translate when she needed an emergency casearean.

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