Bereaved parents said they have been left ‘furious’ after a leaked message sent to maternity staff at Nottingham University Hospitals responded to Donna Ockenden’s visit to the city by criticising media coverage.
The Director of Midwifery at the trust, Sharon Wallis, sent an internal memo to staff in maternity after Ms Ockenden met families in Nottingham who have lost babies in incidents at the trust, which runs the City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre.
Afterwards she also gave interviews to local journalists outlining how her review would move forward.
Experienced midwife Ms Ockenden led a previous review into Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust’s maternity services.
The review will officially start in September 2022 and is expected to last around 18 months – depending on the number of families who come forward.
Jack and Sarah Hawkins, whose baby Harriet died in 2016 at City Hospital, said there was “no excuse” for the message that was sent to maternity staff.
The trust has “wholeheartedly apologised” for offence caused by the message, which read: “Yesterday, (Monday 11th) Donna Ockenden met with families as part of the new independent review process.
“Some of you will no doubt have seen some of the media fall out.
“Yet again they painted a damning picture of our maternity services, leaving out of their reports the great work that has been done, the improvements that have been introduced and the passion and commitment of all of the staff.”
Ms Wallis’ message to staff added further improvements to the service are set to be made next week.
Mr and Mrs Hawkins responded: “It’s not just the families and the press ganging up – there is very real concern about safety.
“For senior leadership to not be saying that they have a problem is beyond us.
“We are cross and very concerned that this is what they have done. It highlights the issues at NUH.
“We are furious that this the message that they are giving.
“There is a difference between what is said on the ground to staff vs what they say to the press and to the public.”
Maternity services at the trust are currently rated as ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission.
The trust is also rated ‘requires improvement’ overall.
Ms Wallis’ message to staff continued: “I know it is a stressful and somewhat worrying time for all of us.
“However, there are good things happening all the time and we need to hold onto these as best we can.”
“Thank you for everything you all do, day in, day out and for the obvious hard work that goes into making our maternity services work in such challenging times. I remain proud of our team, thank you.”
Councillor Michelle Welsh (Lab), who has long called for improvements at NUH said: “The comments show a total disrespect to the families that have bravely come forward and a total disregard for the review under Donna Ockenden.
“Once again NUH have highlighted their complete inability to orchestrate the changes so desperately needed in the maternity services and instead favour complete denial at the expense of women and babies in Nottinghamshire.”
An NUH spokesperson said: “We wholeheartedly apologise for any offence that has been caused by this message to our staff. Our newsletter to staff is intended to share learning and improvement, and our aim is to put the patient at the heart of this – this message was poorly worded and fell short of this aim, and we are truly sorry.”