A senior midwife who led an investigation into the UK’s biggest maternity scandal has been appointed as chair of an independent review into failings at another problem-hit NHS trust.
Some 100 mothers previously wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to criticise the thematic review of maternity incidents at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) and called for Donna Ockenden to be put in charge.
On Thursday, NHS England apologised to families for the delay in appointing Ms Ockenden as chair of the review.
The families affected by failings at the trust said the appointment is a “significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services”.
An interim report published by the outgoing inquiry team on Thursday said there was 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”.
The report read: “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.
“Staff have described this as happening both within and across staff groups.
“As a result, this is costing the trust diminished employee commitment and creating a defensive and fractious culture.”
In a statement on behalf of some of those affected, the families said: “We cannot describe the immense sense of relief that we feel at the news that Donna Ockenden has been appointed to conduct the review into maternity services in Nottingham.
“We’d like to thank Sajid Javid for finally listening to us after many years of campaigning by the families affected by failures of care.
“Donna Ockenden’s appointment is a significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services.
“We are confident that she will conduct a robust review to ensure the scale of failings at NUH are recognised and essential improvements are made.”
The families have urged improvements in four different areas – protecting future babies and mothers from death and harm, ensuring women are properly listened to, guaranteeing staff have the right qualifications, training and skills, and creating a new culture of transparency, openness, and willingness to learn from mistakes.
“This signals the start of the next stage in the journey where families can now stop fighting and instead dedicate their strength, knowledge, and experiences to uncover the truth and improve maternity service for the people of Nottingham,” the statement added.
Ms Ockenden recently delivered the damning report into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, which saw more than 200 baby deaths and is considered the UK’s biggest maternity scandal.
Mr Javid said he was looking forward to seeing the new chair’s recommendations for urgent improvements.
He said: “It’s absolutely vital that mothers and babies have access to the best possible care and I was deeply moved by the stories of families who have suffered from these tragic failings – my sympathies remain with all of them.
“I want to thank Donna Ockenden for stepping up to lead this crucial independent review – Donna will bring with her a wealth of experience, particularly following her work on the review of Shrewsbury and Telford maternity services – and I look forward to seeing her recommendations for urgent improvements.
“We will continue to take all the steps necessary to ensure no families have to go through this pain again.”
In a statement after her appointment, Ms Ockenden said: “Having a baby is one of the most important times for a family and when women and their babies come into contact with NHS maternity services they should receive the very best and safest care.
“We already know that improvements to maternity care need to be made across the country and families in Nottingham have been through experiences that no family should ever have to go through.
“I am delighted to have been asked by Sir David Sloman to take up the role of chair of this review and will be engaging with families shortly as my first priority.
“I look forward to working with and listening to families and staff, and working with NHS England and NHS Improvement to deliver a review and recommendations that lead to real change and safer care for women, babies and families in Nottingham as soon as possible.”
Chief operating officer at NHS England, Sir David Sloman, said the NHS is “committed to ensuring that the new review delivers much-needed improvements to maternity care for families across Nottingham”.
He said: “We are sorry for the distress caused to the families in the delay in announcing a new chair for the review.
“We know we need to get this right for the families who have experienced such terrible loss and been through so much pain already.
“We have listened to the concerns raised and we want to ensure the new review addresses them – it must support families to share their views and their experiences so that vital improvements can be made for mums, families and babies in Nottingham.
“Given Donna Ockenden’s wealth of experience, we are pleased that she has agreed to chair the review – we will start work together now to develop the terms of reference so that her vital work can begin without any further delays.
“The NHS is absolutely committed to ensuring that the new review delivers much-needed improvements to maternity care for families across Nottingham.”