By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
The chair of the Nottingham maternity review has made a plea to families after only a quarter replied to a letter sent out to those with the most serious cases.
Donna Ockenden is running a large scale review into care at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH), where maternity units are rated ‘inadequate’.
So far, 1,203 families have contacted the review team themselves directly and to date 623 of these have given consent to join it.
Now, Ms Ockenden is also calling for families who were sent separate letters from NUH to also contact the review team.
These 1,400 letters went to families who had experienced stillbirth, neonatal deaths, brain damage to the baby, harm to mothers or mothers who have lost their lives.
The letters included correspondence from Chief Executive of NUH Anthony May as well as Ms Ockenden who explained how families could contact the review.
But only a quarter of those contacted have responded to the letters.
Ms Ockenden told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We would say to all local communities, this is about improving your local maternity service for you, your sisters, your best friend and for your wives.
“Please help us by coming forward.”
Ms Ockenden said there have been 342 responses to the letters with 11 families who have said they do not wish to be a part of the review.
Ms Ockenden said: “Overall about a quarter of families have responded to the letters, which means that three-quarters haven’t.
“It is a concern and we recognise that we need to do much more about it.
“All of the families are important to us but the families identified [by the trust] are particularly important because we know that something has happened to them.
“We don’t know yet whether poor care contributed to the outcome for these families.
“The letters were complex and some families may not have understood what they needed to do.
“Some families may have read the letter and thought it was too painful to respond.
“What we would say to those families is if they give consent to join the review, they can have as little or as much involvement as they wish. They absolutely do not have to revisit painful memories.”
Ms Ockenden explained that “the strength of the review will be based on its numbers”.
She added: “Our review and its ability to improve maternity services for the population of Nottingham is as strong as the number of cases that we consider.
“My team of 90 doctors, nurses and midwives want to review as many cases as possible.
“We are hopeful that many more families will come forward.”
This week, Ms Ockenden is meeting a local organisation called ‘Support Me’ which works with women for whom English is not a first language.
She will also be recording videos with women from Nottingham in Urdu, Arabic, Punjabi and Mirpuri explaining the review.
The review team are feeding back findings to NUH and in February, NUH was told that it needed to improve communication with families.
Ms Ockenden said: “We have fed that back to the trust already, to ensure that voices are heard and amplified and acted upon really quickly. As soon as we hear anything, we feed that back and expect action to be taken.
“I am assured that at the very top of the trust, they are listening, but we need this listening to be put into action now.”
The review is expected to conclude in summer 2024.