The parents of a baby who died at a Nottingham hospital say a new chapter can now begin with experienced midwife Donna Ockenden at the helm of a new review into maternity services.
Yesterday, Ms Ockenden was appointed to lead a review into ‘inadequate’ maternity services at both the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital.
Both sites run by Nottingham University Hospitals have been graded ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission.
A ‘thematic’ review, was set up in October by the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – but around 100 parents whose babies had been harmed or died at the trust said they had lost faith in it.
In a letter sent to families on Thursday (May 26), David Sloman, Chief Operating Officer, NHS England and NHS Improvement, confirmed the appointment of Ms Ockenden, who led the damning review into Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust’s maternity services.
Sarah Hawkins had been in labour for six days before Harriet was stillborn at City Hospital. She and her husband Jack Hawkins had both worked for the trust.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Jack said it was an emotional moment to receive a call from the Health Secretary with the news.
“We had been in London meeting Jeremy Hunt and as we got off the tube at St Pancras, we had an email from Sajid Javid’s office to say he wanted to speak to us”, he said.
“A few moments later we had a phone call directly from him saying that he had been working very hard and had been doing his own investigations into what was going on, along with Amanda Pritchard at NHS England.
“He agreed that we needed Donna Ockenden. I don’t make a habit of crying at train stations but I was very emotional.”
Sarah added: “It’s just a massive sense of relief to finally feel that we will be believed and heard.
“We have had many years of fighting and so many bereaved and harmed families we have met along the way. We just want to be believed and hopefully, Donna will give us that opportunity.
“I think it’s the start of a new chapter. I don’t think there will be any justice because Harriet is always going to be dead. But to have accountability and answers will definitely help us grieve.”
Jack added that they never gave up on the fight because they felt the hospital’s maternity units were still unsafe.
He said: “We would’ve done it just for Harriet, but it wasn’t. It was lots of other families, mothers and babies.
“In the last few months, I have been waking up anxious about the next day and what it will bring. Last night I woke up, but it was different. I think it’s the sense of relief.”
Sarah added: “As a parent, you always defend your child – but when your baby has died and they have no voice, you really want to give them that voice.”
Ms Ockenden will conclude her work in Shrewsbury in the first week of July, ready to start in Nottingham.
Sharon Wallis, Director of Midwifery at Nottingham University Hospitals, said that keeping mums and babies safe is their “top priority”.
She said: “Our teams are working hard to make the necessary improvements, but recognise we have more to do and are absolutely determined to speed up the pace of change and deliver quality services for women and their families.”