By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Calls for a public inquiry into maternity services at Nottingham hospitals are being backed by a couple whose baby girl was stillborn after failings in her care.
Nottinghamshire County Councillor Michelle Welsh (Lab) is campaigning for the inquiry following baby deaths and injuries at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH), which runs the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital.
Nottingham parents Jack and Sarah Hawkins, whose baby Harriet was stillborn in April 2016, backed the calls, saying the independence of any inquiry is key.
Maternity services at the trust are currently rated inadequate and the trust as a whole is rated as ‘requires improvement’ by watchdog the Care Quality Commission.
NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) are currently carrying out their own review into “maternity incidents, complaints and concerns” at the trust.
The review is expected to complete by the end of 2022, but councillors and the Hawkins family say this is not enough.
Chief Nurse for Nottingham University Hospitals, Michelle Rhodes, said: “We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the families using our services get the best possible care and are fully co-operating with the on-going independent review.”
A motion will be tabled at next week’s Nottinghamshire County Council meeting asking the Government to conduct a full public inquiry into maternity services at the trust.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Welsh said: “This situation is even bigger than I thought it was.
“Nothing short of a public inquiry will allow that trust to improve – a government-led public inquiry that is totally independent of Nottinghamshire.
“Mothers and fathers have not had the answers they should’ve had. It is horrendous and scandalous, and it cannot go on.
“It would give families the confidence and reassurance that they are going to get the answers they need.
“A lot of families are speaking up. They are so brave and so courageous for doing it. It is the most horrendous things that can happen to anybody
“This isn’t about politics, it is about the protection of mothers and babies going forward.
“It is important for me to have this motion because it allows me to give members in Nottinghamshire the message. Local government combined with members of parliament is a powerful force.”
Jack and Sarah Hawkins, who are both former employees of NUH, said changes were needed “rapidly”.
An external report into Harriet’s death found that her deterioration could have been spotted sooner and her life could have been saved if she and Sarah were better monitored by staff.
The Hawkins said: “This is ongoing, it is not historic. We don’t believe the CCG inquiry is powerful enough or independent enough to give what Nottingham really needs. The independence of a public inquiry is the real key thing.
“We have felt very alone with this and have blown the whistle so many times and been ignored until the pressure has got to this level.
“We are so grateful to (Nottingham South Labour MP) Lilian Greenwood and Michelle Welsh, who are working tirelessly towards improving maternity services in Nottingham.
“We have been saying it for nearly six years since Harriet died needlessly, and to finally be heard is huge and it is not going away now.
“It is the closest we’ve ever been to things actually changing and for there to be accountability.”
Councillor Penny Gowland (Lab), who is seconding the motion, added: “The situation at NUH Maternity Department now needs to be thoroughly and independently investigated: we need this for the parents, the children and indeed for the staff, many of whom are working under very difficult conditions.
“These hospitals are so important in the lives of everyone in Nottinghamshire: we want them to be the best, not just adequate or not failing.”
The motion will state: “Nottinghamshire County Council will call upon the government to conduct a full public enquiry into maternity services at NUH and resolves to write to the Secretary of State for Health to express serious concerns and to present the case for a full public enquiry into the maternity services at NUH [and] ask the secretary of state to meet with the Health Scrutiny Committee and families affected regarding maternity services at NUH.”
Councillors will discuss and vote on the motion during a full council meeting on November 25.