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Something is ‘very, very wrong’ at Nottingham NHS Trust, inquiry head says

An independent inquiry has been launched into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals (PA)
An independent inquiry has been launched into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals (PA)

The senior midwife appointed to lead an independent inquiry into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals has said something is “very, very wrong” at the trust.

Donna Ockenden, whose appointment as chair of the inquiry was announced on Thursday, said her first priority would be “to listen to and engage with and hear families effectively”.

Ms Ockenden was appointed after 100 mothers wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to criticise the thematic review of maternity incidents at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust and called for her to be put in charge.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, Ms Ockenden said: “What I know at the moment is that there are so many families who have been through, for the most of us anyway, unimaginable grief.

“And of course the pain that they will have suffered through the loss of their babies will have been compounded by having to push for effective investigations or inquiries.

“So the first priority has got to be to listen to and engage with families.”

Invited to comment on the failings at the trust, Ms Ockenden told the BBC:  “As you will know, I was appointed only yesterday.

“I’m not yet familiar with the situation in the trust, but very clearly, the CQC issuing a safety warning notice and the stories that we’re all seeing that parents have shared widely… there is clearly something that is very, very wrong at the trust.”

During her comments, Ms Ockenden urged people who are due to use maternity services at the trust to speak up if they have concerns, but said they should feel confident the enhanced scrutiny on the trust could only be positive.

She went on: “Clearly, there’s an urgent need to restore confidence of the local community in maternity services at Nottingham.

Ockenden report
Donna Ockenden, speaking after a previous inquiry into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (Jacob King/PA)

“I suppose if there is one positive thing that comes out of the attention of the CQC, the attention of NHS England, (it) is that those maternity services are under scrutiny, and that has to be a positive thing.

“The other thing I would say is I talk to midwives and doctors and anaesthetists, obstetricians on the ground, every single day of the week.

“And I know that there will be so many members of staff at Nottingham University Trust going into work today and yesterday and tomorrow, giving of their very best.

“It’s my view that having a baby in the UK, it’s one of the safest places to have a baby in the world. That’s my belief and the evidence does show that.

“There is a lot to do, but I’ve been in and around maternity services now since the early 1990s. I’ve never seen maternity services… have such a high-profile place on the agenda and that can only be a good thing for the parents who should expect safe care, and also the staff on the ground.”

The interim report of a now-abandoned thematic review into the trust, published on Thursday, said there is “evidence of a lack of respect, appreciation and listening by some staff members in relation to their colleagues and to service users with some indications of bullying behaviour”.

It added: “There appears to be a small number of staff who display unacceptable behaviours such as being ‘rude’ and ‘abrasive’, with some staff members describing being ‘scared’ of named colleagues.”

Sharon Wallis, director of midwifery at Nottingham University Hospitals, 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 for women and their families.”