Nottingham families have supported a letter asking for the Health Secretary to allow Donna Ockenden to conduct a review into Nottingham’s failing maternity services.
Midwife Ms Ockenden recently delivered a high-profile report on maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust which found “repeated failures” spanning a period of 20 years.
Now, a group of around 50 families who say they have been affected by unsafe maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust, which runs Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital, are calling for Ms Ockenden to conduct a review in Nottingham.
The families, who are members of an online support group, say they are speaking out to prevent more deaths at the trust.
Senior NHS Physiotherapist Sarah Hawkins and husband Dr Jack Hawkins exposed the problems at NUH following the death of their daughter, Harriet, who was stillborn in 2016.
They said they feel appointing Ms Ockenden is the “only solution” as it stands.
The letter addressed to health secretary Sajid Javid, expresses concerns over the current thematic review by the local Clinical Commissioning Group which is looking at ‘maternity incidents, complaints and concerns’ at the trust.
Last month, it was revealed that the number of families who had come forward to be part of the review had quadrupled in two weeks from 84 to 387.
And as of 6 April 6, 461 families and 68 members of staff have come forward.
It comes after healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) reinspected maternity services at NUH last month, which are currently rated inadequate.
After the inspection in March 2022, inspectors discovered that stillbirths were increasing at City Hospital and the trust was issued a warning notice after issues were found with triage services.
The letter states: “Historically there have been reviews, nothing has changed. Coroners have publicly raised concerns, nothing has changed. If families are to be safeguarded, real and impactful intervention is required.
“The thematic review so far has been less than impactful, understaffed and moving with the viscosity of treacle. How can the public have faith in this process? The only answer is Donna Ockenden and a Public Inquiry.”
It adds: “Donna Ockenden has the team, and a Public Inquiry has definitive timelines. The affected families and general public deserve that certainty.”
Sarah Hawkins said that reading the report into Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust was “extremely difficult” because it was “literally a copy and paste” of experiences they are aware of at NUH.
She added: “A lot of the bereaved and harmed families want answers as to why this service was allowed to get so bad.
“We’ve been here for nearly six years and the people who are contacting us now have the exact same things going on.
“It’s absolutely heartbreaking. We wouldn’t have been here today if the trust had listened to us.
“It’s absolutely devastating that families are still coming through.
“It belittles Harriet’s death. It’s not as if her death even meant anything because it hasn’t made any changes.”
Jack Hawkins added that Donna Ockenden would provide a “ready-made, packaged up solution” to rapid improvement at NUH.
He said: “We’ve been wanting things to change at Nottinghamshire maternity services for a long time now and there have been numerous attempts to force or encourage NUH to change.
“Nothing has actually changed. We now have this current review which we have really huge concerns about.
“If we get Donna Ockenden, she will come with pace, experience, expertise and we believe she will be able to prevent more harm in Nottingham maternity services.
“She comes with power, she is respected. We think it is the only solution at the moment if we want things to rapidly change in Nottingham.
“But, I think it is clear that we have to have a public inquiry because so much has gone wrong with maternity care in Nottingham.”
Switalskis Solicitors, representing the families, say those who have signed the letter have “harrowing” accounts of maternity failure, many having taken place recently.
The firm says they are aware of 34 maternity investigations following incidents at NUH since 2018.
The families also claim there are flaws with the review.
They say that more needs to be done to encourage families to come forward “to understand the true extent of those harmed”.
The Hawkins’ solicitor Natalie Cosgrove, of Switalskis Solicitors, added: “The families need truth and transparency and that is the first step in rebuilding public confidence in Nottingham Maternity. They do not feel they are getting that, and there is merit to that.”
A spokesperson for Nottingham University Hospitals said previously: “We are doing everything in our power to ensure the families using our maternity services get the best possible care and we are fully co-operating with the ongoing independent review, commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Clinical Commissioning Group.”