‘Some sort of justice’ for Harry Richford’s parents as NHS trust pleads guilty

Harry Richford died in November 2017.

Tom and Sarah Richford
Tom and Sarah Richford

The parents of a baby boy who died at a scandal-hit NHS trust say they now have “some sort of justice” after spending years fighting for change.

Harry Richford’s “wholly avoidable” death in November 2017 led to East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust being charged and taken to court.

His parents say they fear that serious failings would have been “brushed under a carpet” if they had not campaigned for answers.

There have been reports that at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at the trust since 2016.

On Monday the trust admitted failing to provide safe care and treatment to Harry and his mother Sarah Richford under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations, in the first prosecution of its kind.

Harry was born at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, before being transferred to the intensive neonatal unit at William Harvey Hospital, where he died aged just seven days.

Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of the hearing, Harry’s father Tom Richford said: “At every hurdle it did seem that the hospital were trying to avoid scrutiny, they didn’t want to lose out on their reputation.

“So we kept having to fight and fight and fight and eventually we’ve now got the inquests, and the inquiries and the investigations that really mean that change should hopefully be more systemic and sustainable.”

Harry’s mother Sarah Richford said the guilty plea in court shows the care she and Harry received was sub-standard, adding they now have “some sort of justice for what happened”.

Sarah and Tom Richford with their son Harry
Sarah and Tom Richford with their son Harry (Derek Richford/PA)

She told PA: “We’ve got some level of justice that means that although Harry’s life was short, hopefully it’s made a difference and that other babies won’t die.”

“If somebody had done this before Harry was born he may be alive today,” she added.

Mrs Richford said she hopes the eventual recommendations from the Kirkup review will be listened to.

Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation into serious maternity failings at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, is leading an independent review into East Kent Hospitals’ maternity services.

Mr Richford said it feels there has now been a “change in tide” at the trust that they hope will continue.

He added: “They’re now beginning to admit their errors and mistakes and hopefully that will continue.

“The whole time you admit and own your mistakes you’ll hopefully learn from them, but the whole time you’re brushing them under the carpet then the same mistakes will happen again and again and again.”

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