A criminal investigation into maternity failings at Nottingham University Hospitals will not start until spring next year at the earliest.
Nottinghamshire Police made the announcement as part of an update on its probe into the services at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital.
Maternity at both sites is rated ‘requires improvement’ by the healthcare watchdog and independent midwife Donna Ockenden is leading the largest review in NHS history into cases including stillbirth, neonatal deaths, brain damage and harm to mothers.
Around 1,800 families are expected to be involved in the process.
It was announced in September that police would also launch an investigation into failings.
Assistant Chief Constable Robert Griffin will lead the criminal police investigation into “severe harm and deaths linked to maternity care provision”.
In an update released on Thursday (October 12) he said the force is in the “preparatory stages” of the investigation.
Affected families will not be contacted until at least next spring. Some said they welcomed the update on the police investigation but added “There must be accountability for those who failed”.
Mr Griffin said: “Our approach will be underpinned by compassion, care and candour toward those affected and I will also be taking advantage of good practice and lessons learnt from cases with similarities elsewhere in the country.
“I would not expect the investigative work to begin before the spring of 2024.
“Unfortunately, it is really difficult to give an exact date, but it is really important that we have put in place the right infrastructure to support the investigation before we begin our investigative work.
“Because of this, we will not be making any contact with families prior to that time, and for probably sometime thereafter.
“In respect of that contact, we will be working with Donna Ockenden to ensure that we do this in the most appropriate way. No identifiable information will be shared by the review team with Nottinghamshire Police without the consent of the affected family.”
A group of harmed families affected by maternity services said in a statement: “As bereaved and harmed families we welcome news of the developing police investigation.
“For too long families of Nottinghamshire have been placed in repeatedly unsafe situations resulting in grave harm and death. This must stop.
“There must be accountability for those who failed in the most serious devastating manner. In no other walk of life would preventable harm being caused to hundreds of babies and mothers be accepted without prosecution. This must change. We look forward to hearing from the police in due course.”