Donna Ockenden has told families affected by maternity failings at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) she would be “very pleased” to take over the ongoing review into the trust.
About 100 families wrote to Ms Ockenden this week appealing for her to chair a new review having lost faith in the current process and the review team in charge of it.
An “independent thematic review” is under way at NUH chaired by Cathy Purt, a long-time NHS manager who the families believe has no experience of running complex inquiries or maternity services.
Ms Ockenden, a senior midwife and manager who recently published her inquiry into multiple failings over a 20-year period at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), said she would be happy to take charge “subject to being asked to do so” by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.
In a letter to the families she said: “As I explained when we spoke I am honoured to be asked to chair your review and very touched that so many families have come together to request my leadership of your review.
“In our conversation I also said it would be a privilege to lead your review and I would be very pleased to do so… I would be very pleased to become chair of your review, subject to being asked to do so by the appropriate person.”
Ms Ockenden explained that she and her team are in the process of providing feedback to families in Shrewsbury and Telford, which is expected to be complete by June.
She said: “There would be no reason why any revised terms of reference, etc, could not be worked upon and approved in between now and the end of June.
“We agreed that I have a great deal of very relevant experience from the Shrewsbury review and other reviews I have undertaken that would be extremely helpful in Nottingham.”
More than 450 families and dozens of members of staff have now come forward to be part of the review of inadequate maternity services at Nottingham hospitals. A review into “maternity incidents, complaints and concerns” at NUH was announced last year following a series of baby deaths and injuries at the Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital. It began investigating in October and is jointly led by the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS England.
It was revealed last month that the number of families who had come forward to be part of the review had quadrupled in two weeks from 84 to 387. As of April 6, 461 families have come forward, the CCG said. Some 68 staff from maternity services have also come forward.
The review team said in March that the increase in families coming forward was “directly linked to social media advertising which encouraged families who wish to share their experience of maternity services to contact us through our website”. The review will look at incidents from 2006 onwards and is expected to be complete on November 30.
Ms Ockenden’s five-year investigation into SaTH concluded that 201 babies and nine mothers had died avoidably because of “repeated failures in care over two decades”. Suboptimal staffing levels and unsafe inpatient to staffing ratios, along with pressure for women to have natural births, were at the heart of the investigation. She said that many of the failures at SaTH were “not unique”.
Health officials have also received the letter from the Nottingham families and are understood to be considering the request. No decision has yet been made.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The Ockenden report paints a tragic and harrowing picture of repeated failures in care over two decades at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust. The Health and Social Care Secretary has been clear we will leave no stone unturned in addressing these failures.
“We take the patient safety concerns at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s maternity services very seriously. The Trust is taking action to improve services but we are closely monitoring progress in improving the standard of care for mothers and babies.”