Nottingham Maternity Review – Donna Ockenden Takeover

The Nottingham Maternity Unit was rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2020 and a review, similar to that completed by Donna Ockenden into the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH), began. The review relates directly to the Nottingham University Hospital (NUH) Trust after repeated examples of poor care were uncovered along with failures to investigate. 

The CQC issued a warning notice in March 2022 highlighting specific concerns over triage services and increased stillbirths. Nineteen serious incidents were reported by maternity staff between March 2021 and February 2022, as well as five current Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch investigations. The CQC warning was issued having identified that staff were not always carrying out observations to make sure patients’ conditions were not deteriorating, and that triage wait times were too long. 

Families involved in the review previously sought the input of Donna Ockenden in the Nottingham review due to a lack of confidence in the clinical team involved, the extremely slow pace of the review and the increasing numbers of families coming forward. The original remit was too narrow and considered not independent enough. 

An interim report was published in April 2022, which highlighted that maternity services nationally were ‘under immense scrutiny’, in light of reports such as that conducted by Ockenden into SaTH. Evidence of ‘bullying behaviour’ had been uncovered with some staff displaying ‘unacceptable behaviours such as being rude and abrasive’. Sharon Wallis, director of the midwifery unit at NUH said “our teams are working hard to make the necessary improvements, but recognise we have more to do and are absolutely determined to speed up the pace of change and deliver quality services”. 

NHS England have now confirmed that Donna Ockenden will chair a new team with new terms of reference into the review of the maternity services at NUH. Sir David Sloman, Chief Operating Officer for NHS England has said he has “taken on board various views” those concerned with the original review team have shared. Ockenden will develop terms, which reflect both the need to drive urgent improvements to local maternity care and the need to deliver actionable recommendations, which can be implemented as quickly as possible. No timescale has yet been confirmed however. 

This announcement is no doubt welcomed by those families involved and will hopefully result in a robust review. This change in leadership comes as a result of the families campaigning for Donna Ockenden’s involvement, and some even publishing personal details of their cases online in a desperate bid to be heard by those in charge. 

Donna Ockenden taking over as chair of the review offers hope that the failings at NUH, specifically the maternity unit, will be uncovered and hopefully encourage ongoing and future care to be improved. She has commented that her first priority is to listen to those families affected and notes that the CQC safety warning, and the stories shared already, indicates ‘something that is very, very wrong at the trust’.

Lanyon Bowdler are supporting hundreds of families under Donna Ockenden’s review into the maternity care at SaTH. If you or your family have been affected by poor maternity care either under SaTH or Nottingham, please speak to a member of our specialist team.