In February 2020, a BBC investigation discovered that since 2016, at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at East Kent Hospitals NHS trust.
This follows the news that the trust pleaded guilty to a criminal charge over failings in care, which led to the death of a week-old newborn baby.
Harry Richford, died at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital in Margate in November 2017, just seven days after his emergency delivery.
Folkestone magistrates court in Kent, found that the trust had admitted they failed to provide safe care and treatment to Harry and his mother, Sarah Richford under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.
On Friday 24 January 2020, coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks ruled that Harry’s death was “wholly avoidable” and was ultimately contributed to by “neglect”.
The BBC’s investigation found that the death of the newborn was the result of a number of failings by the hospital. This includes, but is not limited to, hyperstimulation through an excessive use of Syntocinon over approximately 10 hours and lack of consultant involvement during both the delivery and resuscitation attempts.
In a statement after the hearing, Harry’s parents, Sarah and Tom Richford, said the trust’s conviction gave them “some sort of justice for what happened” and “demonstrates the severity of issues that were discovered”.
Sarah Richford said: “We’ve got some level of justice that means that although Harry’s life was short, hopefully it’s made a difference and that other babies won’t die.
“If somebody had done this before Harry was born, he may be alive today.”
Freedom of Information requests have discovered there were 124 baby deaths over the past seven years at East Kent hospitals.
In 2015, a report by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (RCOG) reviewing obstetric services at East Kent Hospitals NHS trust uncovered a number of findings that contributed to Harry’s death and several examples of failing governance.
The report discovered “poor governance” within the trust, as consultants were refusing to turn up on weekends or evenings.
Additionally, the report found there were poor checks on staff CVs and repeated failures to learn from mistakes.
However, despite these concerns, the full report was not provided to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) until January 2019.
This was heavily criticised by Dr Bill Kirkup CBE, the Chairman of the Morecambe Bay investigation into maternity and neonatal services at Furness General Hospital.
Dr Kirkup told The Independent: “When there is sufficient concern about a service to prompt an external review, the report must be available immediately to those responsible for assuring the quality of the service.
“That was the reason for the recommendation of the Morecambe Bay investigation, and it is disappointing that the Care Quality Commission apparently had no sight of this report until now.”
The prosecution is a first of its kind and sentencing will take place in the same court on 18 June.