Nursing regulator to be investigated over handling of Barrow baby deaths cases
AN under fire nursing regulator is to be investigated over the way it handled the cases of 'musketeer midwives' involved in a national maternity scandal.
The Department of Health stepped in to order the independent review of the Nursing and Midwifery Council today at the direction of health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
It will be carried out by the Professional Standards Authority - the body that oversees UK regulators - and is expected to get underway as soon as possible.
The news was welcomed by Dalton father James Titcombe, whose baby son Joshua died aged just nine days old following serious failings in the care he received at Furness General Hospital in 2008.
Mr Titcombe said: "This is a really positive step.
"Now there's a chance that the rotten culture of the organisation and failures that no doubt contributed to the unnecessary loss of mothers and babies at Morecambe Bay can be properly examined.
"It also offers the best way forward to make a difference for the future."
The NMC announced last year that it would launch a lessons learned review into the way it handled the cases of midwives alleged to have failed to provide proper care for women and babies at FGH.
Its chief executive Jackie Smith said she would commission the report once the final fitness to practice hearings relating to tragedies at FGH were completed this year.
She committed to publish the findings in full.
But today's letter from the Department of Health to the PSA states: "In order to convey the greatest assurance of independence in such sensitive matter, the department and the NMC believe that the Professional Standards Authority, with its established role in legislation, is best placed to carry out such a review.
"I am therefore writing to you on behalf of the secretary of state to ask whether the authority would be willing to exercise its discretion under the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Act 2002 and carry out an independent lessons learned review into the NMC’s handling of the Morecambe Bay midwife cases.”
It adds: "we would appreciate if the Authority could start the review as soon as possible while ensuring that any live cases are not compromised."
The Morecambe Bay Investigation, by Dr Bill Kirkup concluded that 11 babies and one mother died as a direct result of poor care and a 'toxic culture' in maternity at FGH over a nine year period.
It took the NMC eight years to convene fitness to practice hearing for some of those involved.
Dalton midwife Lindsey Biggs was sacked from FGH after being involved in the care of a second baby who died last year while waiting to attend a fitness to practice hearing over the death of Joshua Titcombe seven years earlier.