By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
The senior midwife leading a review into Nottingham’s maternity services has offered her reassurance to expectant parents that lessons will be learned before investigations conclude.
Donna Ockenden is leading the independent review into maternity failings at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), which runs both the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital.
The review began in September last year and comes after dozens of babies were injured or died while in the care of NUH.
On Tuesday, January 31 the Local Democracy Reporting Service met Ms Ockenden for an update on the review’s progress, just days after NUH was fined a record £800,000 for failing to provide safe care to Wynter Andrews who died at 23 minutes old.
At Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on January 27, District Judge Grace Leong handed the trust the fine over the death of baby Wynter at the Queen’s Medical Centre in 2019.
“I think anyone looking at Wynter’s case is just struck by the terrible tragedy that has happened to Sarah and Gary Andrews and their little family,” Ms Ockenden said.
“We know from everything that was discussed last week and from the coroner’s inquest that Wynter should be here, now, that what happened should not have happened and it is a grief that will remain with Sarah and Gary and the family forever.”
Since the review began on September 1 there has been a focus on placing down the “building blocks” for the review, which is expected to span a period of at least 18 months.
More than 900 families and 400 current and former staff members at NUH have received a letter informing them of the review.
Around 200 people have so far given consent to be involved.
A multi-lingual video featuring English, Urdu and Punjabi, is also being made to ensure messages go out from women to their communities about the importance of the review and potential involvement.
Ms Ockenden also issued a message of reassurance to those expecting a child, or planning on getting pregnant, that care and standards should improve over the course of the review, rather than when it ends.
“Those numbers [that have come forward] are good but there is still more to do,” Ms Ockenden said.
“We know the Trust has sent out, now, over 1,300 letters of families who fall within our terms of reference and what we would say to those families is please do come forward, please do give your consent if you want to join our review, because without your consent and permission we can’t proceed.
“What I do want to say to local families and local women, particularly those who may be expecting a baby now or thinking about getting pregnant in the near future, I want to reassure them that as we find learning from within the review we will not be bundling it up and saving it to the end of the review.
“We will put in place a formal process to make sure that the trust receives that learning from us and then the learning must happen as the review is progressing.
“That is my message to local women, please do not worry that there will be an awful lot of learning right at the end of the review, we are working out how we ensure the learning happens as we identify it.
“We’ve had full cooperation from the trust since the review officially started, the Trust are committed to working with us and alongside us.
“I will stress the learning we identify will be shared with the executive team at the trust and is a must do.”
Michelle Rhodes, Chief Nurse at NUH, added: “We are committed to making the necessary and sustainable improvements to provide the best possible care for women and families who use our maternity services.
“This is why we will continue to do all we can to support the work of Donna Ockenden’s independent review.
“This commitment includes ensuring that family voices are heard and we are encouraging people who have significant or serious concerns about their maternity care, to contact the review team.
“We are also encouraging current and former staff who work directly in or closely with our maternity services, to come forward and engage with the review.
“We know that this is an unsettling time for women and families using our maternity services. If you have any concerns about your care or have further questions, we encourage you to speak to your midwife or consultant.”