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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Barrow baby death probe report

A CUMBRIA family who lost their newborn son following serious failings has rejected a watchdog’s finding that midwives did not collude to provide false evidence at an inquest into his death.

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Furness General Hospital Maternity Ward. HARRY ATKINSON REF: 50033402B001

The parliamentary and health service ombudsman yesterday published reports into complaints made by the loved ones of Joshua Titcombe, who died nine days after his birth at Furness General Hospital in 2008.

The watchdog failed to uphold one complaint regarding the way hospital staff prepared for the inquest, a decision Dalton dad, James Titcombe, said his family “do not accept”.

The PHSO found no evidence midwives presented false evidence about their knowledge of low temperature as a sign of infection, despite the coroner at Joshua’s inquest saying he “honestly believed” they had collaborated on the issue.

The watchdog also said the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust did not breach the law or good practice by letting staff meet a solicitor before the hearing. But the ombudsman did uphold four complaints about Joshua’s case.

A report criticising the way the North West Strategic Health Authority investigated UHMBT was published in December.

Of those released yesterday, the first regarded UHMBT’s investigation into Joshua’s death. Serious deficiencies found to amount to maladministration included not taking detailed enough staff statements, failing to re-interview employees despite discrepancies between their accounts and Joshua’s parents’ and refusing to disclose statements to the baby’s family. The second upheld complaint regarded an email sent by a midwife in 2009, about the probe into Joshua’s death by the Nursing and Midwifery Council entitled “NMC ****”.

The ombudsman found maladministration on the basis the trust, when acknowledging the mistaken sending of the email to the wrong recipient, told Mr Titcombe it was a “comprehensive and professional account” relating to Joshua’s care, something clearly untrue given its title. UHMBT also failed to address concerns as to why the matter was not referred to the NMC.

The third upheld complaint regarded an incident in June 2010 when Mr Titcombe, described in the ombudman’s report as “Mr D”, wrote to UHMBT saying he planned to “take a step back” from pursuing his complaints about Joshua’s death.

The customer care manager emailed the trust’s former head of midwifery saying there was “Good news to pass on re (Mr D)”, and received the reply: “Has (Mr D) moved to Thailand? What is the good news?”. Mr Titcombe, whose wife is from Vietnam, questioned whether this was suggestive of prejudice.

While the ombudsman found no evidence of this, it did find that the email “fell so far below the standards of respect and courtesy to be expected in these circumstances that it amounted to maladministration”.

The PHSO reports highlight the need for more openness and transparency in the way health providers deal with complaints. The ombudsman expects all service providers to act on its recommendations.

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