The new Chair appointed to lead a review into maternity services at Nottingham’s hospitals has been rejected by dozens of bereaved families, who said they felt “let down” by the decision.
The review into the maternity units at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital is looking into the care of hundreds of families following a number of baby deaths, injuries and other incidents dating back to 2006.
But some of the families affected say they have no confidence in the process and have called for a judge-led public inquiry, and for midwife and healthcare leader Donna Ockenden to be involved in the review.
On Friday 22 April Sir David Sloman, NHS England and NHS Improvement chief operating officer, announced a new chair of the review.
He said Julie Dent, who was a former Devon Partnership NHS Trust Chair, will now lead the Clinical Commissioning Group review.
Health secretary Sajid Javid backed the change, saying that Ms Dent “will deliver a review that helps address these tragic failures”.
But a number of families who have lost babies said the announcement of the new chair on a Friday afternoon, without consultation, left them feeling “severely let down, confused, and further traumatised”.
On Monday (April 25) a joint statement from around 100 families affected urged Julie Dent to “strongly consider her appointment” and requested “she declines the offer of chair”.
In total almost 500 families have so far come forward to be part of the review – which is accepting positive as well as negative accounts.
Mr Javid has also invited families to meet him to discuss “issues around poor maternity care in Nottinghamshire and the need for a truly independent review”.
The overall maternity service at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust (NUH), which runs both Nottingham hospitals, has been rated as ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since 2020.
Nottingham parents Jack and Sarah Hawkins, whose daughter Harriet was stillborn in 2016, said they felt “deceived and triggered” by the announcement of the new chair on Friday.
They said: “The process of this latest change is abhorrent and shows just what we’re up against.
“We would like to know how Julie Dent was interviewed, what was the process and who was on the interview panel.
“She is already in a position where she has no confidence from the families. She has been foisted on us without the review team listening to us.”
They added: “’Donna Ockenden remains the right choice for us.”
They also said they were “really pleased” Mr Javid had invited them to meet him and said they would do so “at the drop of a hat”.
The chair of Nottinghamshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, Sue Saddington, (Con) also said the appointment of a new chair was “not an adequate solution”.
As of April 25, 56 of these families have completed ‘listening sessions’, with a further 34 booked in to speak to the review team.
To book families in for sessions, the team asks they confirm their experiences were between April 2006 and October 2021 and ensure psychological support is in place if necessary.
They said some families have also chosen to record their experience in writing.
Councillor Sue Saddington (Con) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We have asked for a full inquiry and nothing less will do as far as I’m concerned. This is not an adequate solution.
“Anybody who has suffered is not going to accept anything less. It is not that it will bring babies back, but it will put families into a position where they can finally grieve.
“It’s not acceptable until we have a proper unique inquiry into what is going wrong.
“Everybody needs to know they will be safe when they go to NUH after preparing for a baby for nine months.
“Why can’t we have Donna Ockenden, who has experience in Shropshire? What is the reason they will not go into a full public inquiry?
“We want that in Nottingham.”
Prior to the statement released by some families rejecting Ms Dent’s appointment, the CCG review team said in a statement: “We’d like to thank all of the families and staff who have taken part in our listening sessions so far and have helped to inform our recommendations and these new changes, which will strengthen the work of the independent thematic review.
“We are looking forward to sharing an update on progress of the review with local families shortly along with further information about next steps.”
A spokesperson for Nottingham University Hospitals said: “We will continue to engage fully with the independent review and remain committed to improving local maternity services using feedback from the review as well as local families and NHS partners.”