Families of Nottingham Maternity Review call for Donna Ockenden to Takeover Investigation

The Donna Ockenden Review reported in March 2022 found repeated failures at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) spanning over a 20 year period whereby both babies and mothers died or were left seriously disabled. The widespread media attention of this review has incited families cared for by the Nottingham University Hospital (NUH) NHS Trust, including Queens Medical and City Hospital, to ask for Donna Ockenden’s input into an ongoing review into the Nottingham Maternity Unit. 

A review similar to that completed by Donna Ockenden is in progress in Nottingham relating to the failings at the NUH Trust after dozens of babies died or suffered life-altering injuries. However, families have complained about the lack of progress being made with the investigation, saying that the review is “moving with the viscosity of treacle". 

The Nottingham Maternity Unit was rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2020 when an inspection concluded that there were serious concerns and that staff did not always understand how to keep women and babies safe. The inspectors warned of unsafe staffing levels and patient safety incidents potentially being wrongfully downgraded i.e. incidents were not being investigated properly and people were therefore put at risk of harm as lessons were not being learnt. 

A re-inspection in March 2022 resulted in the CQC issuing a warning notice to the NUH Trust highlighting specific concerns over triage services and increases in still births. Investigations have found that at least 46 babies have suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn between 2010 and 2020. 

These findings are all too familiar to those families involved in the Ockenden SaTH Review which examined 1,486 cases between 2000 and 2019 and found at least 201 baby deaths with significant or major concerns over the care received. 

The NUH maternity review is currently chaired by NHS Manager, Cathy Purt. However, families involved have questioned her experience in maternity services, as well as of running an inquiry of this magnitude. It has been reported that 84 families were originally involved in this review and this has since increased to 461 following publication of the Ockenden Review.

The NUH maternity review has been ongoing for the past 6 months and is due to be completed by 30 November 2022. However, only 3 clinical leads are involved compared to the 76 clinicians employed in the Ockenden Review. The families are concerned that the review team are unprepared and lack experienced leadership to handle such a large and vitally important review. 

Families involved in the NUH Trust review have contacted the Health Secretary Sajid Javid directly raising their concerns and have requested for Donna Ockenden to take over the investigation. Donna Ockenden has since responded to the families directly and noted that she is deeply honoured by their request but any involvement on her part would be subject to approval from the Health Secretary. 

As nationally recognised clinical negligence solicitors, we at Lanyon Bowdler are representing a number of families relating directly to the Ockenden Review, and it is hoped that their patient journeys will lead to positive changes and improvements at SaTH. A public enquiry into the NUH Trust, similar to that of the SaTH Ockenden report, is important to ensure that those families affected are provided with support and compassion to come forward and share their experiences, and thereafter highlight and improve upon any identified failings in maternity care.