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More than 30 deaths in Nottingham maternity units scandal, media investigation reveals


Dozens of babies have died, or been left with brain damage, at a maternity service accused of bad care and neglect, a joint media investigation has confirmed.

Between 2010 and 2020, at least 46 babies suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS trust maternity units, according to the investigation by Channel 4 News and The Independent.

There were also 15 deaths at the units involving mothers and babies. Sarah Hawkins’ daughter, Harriet, was stillborn in 2016 at one of the trust’s hospitals and is calling for an independent inquiry.

She said: “We were banging on the door saying ‘something’s wrong, babies are dying, and they shouldn’t but they didn’t listen.”

Sarah Hawkins was a senior physiotherapist for NUH when she gave birth to Harriet who died before she could take her first breath.

Ms Hawkins spent five days in labour, which she says should have been a sign to staff that there was some difficulty, but it wasn’t recognised.

She was given an inappropriate, and high dose, of pain relief drug diamorphine and there was a delay in monitoring the foetal heart. Information was not recorded, or passed on correctly, an investigation into the death found.

“I trusted them. They didn’t listen to me,” she said: “It’s been horrific. It’s so exhausting. The trust hasn’t been open or honest. I’d love the trust to have this guilt that I feel. Other babies have died since Harriet and we are the ones here trying to improve things. I wish they would accept that.”

It took NUH 159 days to declare a serious untoward incident (SUI) investigation and then an external review was commissioned into Harriet’s case.

A NUH spokesperson said the trust has “recognised on a number of occasions” that there were “deficiencies” in the Hawkins’ care and that they are “committed to learning from that and improving.”

Channel 4 News and The Independent have found evidence of poor care of mothers and babies and of repeated failures to investigate deaths of babies in NUH’s maternity units in the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital. Failures to refer deaths to the coroner and poor record keeping were also found.

Data from government arbitration and compensation body, NHS Resolution, shows that 201 claims were made against the trust between 2010 and 2020 of which 84 have finally been settled.

From 2011 to 12, there were six claims where almost £14.5m was paid out, the data said. According to NHS Resolution, last year there were 14 claims that are still being settled. More than £91m has been out paid in the past decade.

The trust faced accusations of a “failure or delay to treatment” in 25 incidents and, on 13 occasions, there were accusations of a “failure to recognise complications” as well as 10 inadequate nursing care cases.

One child, Wynter Andrews was born and died on September 15, 2019 and an inquest found “gross failings” contributed to her death.

The inquest also heard the maternity unit at the Queen’s Medical Centre operated in a “fundamentally unsafe manner” and it was understaffed on the day she died.

A former NUH senior midwife, Sue Brydon, has spoken out against how the maternity units were run.

She said the Nottingham City Hospital maternity unit operated under a “culture of fear”, adding that unit managers were a “Teflon team” who failed to listen to concerns about staffing.

She added that vacancies were allowed to accumulate which meant staff were stretched. A lack of beds led to ‘at-risk women’ facing delays for treatment. She also praised many of the staff for working hard to maintain safety.

In October 2020, health and care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), inspected the trust’s maternity services and “several serious concerns were identified” including poor risk management, which it said threatened mothers’ and babies’ safety.

The units were given an “inadequate” rating and the trust was served with a “warning notice”.

In May 2021, CQC inspectors returned and found some improvements had been made but they said the units still had some areas to address to ensure it comprehensively managed all safety risks. 

Chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals, Tracy Taylor, said: “We apologise from the bottom of our hearts to the families who have not received the high level of care they need and deserve. We recognize that the effects have been devastating.

“Improving maternity services is a top priority and we are making significant changes including hiring and training more midwives and introducing digital maternity records.

“We will continue to listen to women and families, whether they have received excellent care, or where care has fallen short. Their experiences will help us to learn and improve our services.”