Countess Of Chester Baby DeathsPublished on: 03 July 2018
We previously wrote a blog in July 2017 about the police investigation into a high number of baby deaths at the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital. It has been reported today that a female healthcare worker has been arrested this morning on suspicion of the murder of eight babies and the attempted murder of another six as part of this investigation.
Investigation now widened
The long-running investigation into the hospital’s neonatal unit by Cheshire Constabulary began in May 2017. Initially police were looking at the deaths of fifteen babies and six non-fatal collapses between June 2015 and June 2016, but the investigation has since widened and they are now investigating the deaths of seventeen babies and fifteen non-fatal collapses between the period of March 2015 and July 2016.
It was reported by ITV news that the hospital carried out a number of independent expert medical reviews into the deaths before calling in the police to investigate. Hospital medical director Ian Harvey said that asking the police to investigate the deaths had not been "something we did lightly, but we need to do everything we can to understand what has happened".
Significant gaps in rotas and insufficient staffing
The Chester Chronicle reports that concerns about mortality rates initially led to an independent review by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and The Royal College of Nursing, who published their report in July 2016 which found ‘significant gaps in both medical and nursing rotas’. The report also highlighted that there was insufficient staffing for the hospital’s status as a Level 2 local neonatal unit providing longer term high dependency and some intensive care. The unit has been downgraded to a Level 1 while the investigation continues.
Now focusing on potential criminal charges
As a department we have specialist expertise in dealing with birth injury cases and in particular cases involving neonatal deaths We have covered many cases arising out of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust baby death scandal, investigating the circumstances in which the deaths occurred and redress for the families.
This is clearly a shocking story and the police investigation remains on going. At the moment it appears that the investigation is focussing on potential criminal charges and whether there are to be any allegations of any negligence for the purpose of any civil claims remains to be seen.