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Thursday, 02 October 2014

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Independent inquiry to be held into Barrow maternity and neonatal services

THE trust responsible for running Furness General Hospital is set to foot the bill for an investigation into its maternity and neonatal services.

The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has today (22) announced it will commission an indepently-chaired internal inquiry into failings in the years leading up to 2011.

Sir David Henshaw, interim chairman of UHMBT, said the trust’s board had agreed to the inquiry in June 2012, following a number of previous inspections and reports aimed at determining what had gone wrong.

He said the process will start once an ongoing police investigation into the deaths of babies and mothers who received care at FGH has finished.

Sir David said: “The board was not satisfied with the previous reports produced, but felt it prudent to wait for the police investigation to progress to a more advanced stage before proceeding.

“The board has today agreed to progress with this decision.

“The inquiry will also review the findings reached in earlier reports commissioned by regulators and progress made in meeting the recommendations made in those reports.

“It is imperative that the trust fully understands the underlying causes of the previous failures to provide the required standards of care in maternity and neonatal services within its hospitals.”

The cost of the process, which is yet to be determined, will be funded by the hospital trust.

The board is now looking for a suitably qualified and experienced person to take the role of independent chair, who will then choose the inquiry team and the terms of reference, including which matters are covered and whether the panel is to make recommendations.

Sir David said: “Whilst good progress has been made in improving safety and standards of care across our maternity units, there is still much to do to ensure their sustainability well into the future.

“It is important that the trust and the wider NHS is able to learn from its previous failings as they can never be allowed to happen again.
“The outcome of the inquiry will be shared, in full, with the public.”

But Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock, fears more may be needed than what has been promised so far.

He said: “Any genuine attempt to bring in independent expertise to learn the lessons of the failings at Morecambe Bay is welcome, but another internal inquiry may well prove insufficient to understand the scale of the problems in NHS management that led to tragic failings in care.

“The trust first announced it would do this last summer and seems to be no further forward in announcing who will lead the work and still wishes to delay starting until the police investigation has finished.

“The people of Furness deserve a proper independent inquiry to learn the lessons of past failings alongside a promise that full maternity services will remain here for future generations.”

Meanwhile South Lakes MP, Tim Farron, welcomed the news, calling it "an overdue but welcome step forward to get justice for victims of the failings of the past".

Mr Farron said: “I welcome the news today that the trust will hold this review.

"This inquiry is overdue and is something we have called for over many months in meetings with the trust and with health ministers.

"I think it is vital we get to the truth of what happened and that people are held accountable for their actions. I want this review to be serious, rigorous and fair so I look forward to seeing the terms of reference.

“I do not want this report to be a whitewash, it must be fair and honest and the trust must be prepared to hold their hands up and admit major failings.

"I will make sure that this report lands on health ministers' desks and I will continue to press for an external and public inquiry after the police have finished their investigations."

Have your say

This is a bogus inquiry, the purpose of which is to take a very long time and divert attention from the calls for a proper public inquiry into the collapse of UHMB. Without a public inquiry, the important documents would still be kept secret and the report would carry no credibility- after all, UHMB would just commission the report from a 'reliable' chairman. UHMB will simply then say: Oh, that's a long time ago, we've sorted everything out now.

Posted by WilliamT on 22 January 2013 at 12:39

My baby grandson Joshua died four years ago after FGH maternity unit failed to treat him for a common infection despite keeping him in after his birth for 'observations'. I have not commented publicly before but I do so now in order to strongly agree with John Woodcock that it is necessary to have a proper public and external inquiry into the past failings of the maternity service in our area. My concern is that another internal inquiry may not be independent enough to consider the full scale of problems including failures within the management structure. How can an inquiry be fully independent when it is set up by the management itself? I fear that the pronouncement of a hospital led inquiry may merely be an expensive distracion
from what is really needed.

Posted by Karen Titcombe on 22 January 2013 at 08:38

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