A DISCIPLINARY process used to clear two Barrow midwives of misconduct in the way they cared for a pregnant woman - whose baby son later died - has been declared 'deficient' by an official investigation body.

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Furness General Hospital midwives Gretta Dixon and Catherine McCullough were both deemed fit to continue practicing at Barrow's hospital in March following a formal panel hearing by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The pair had been accused of failing to record and act upon concerns from Dalton mum Hoa Titcombe and her husband James that they were feeling unwell on their arrival at Barrow's maternity unit before the birth of their son, Joshua in 2008.

But officials within the Professional Standards Agency, which ensures health regulators work effectively to protect the public, yesterday concluded that the process had been rendered 'deficient' because some evidence was withheld from the proceedings by the NMC.

The PSA had been considering whether to challenge the conclusion in the High Court - but it went on to confirmed the NMC's handling of the case had not been 'wrong in law'.

PSA chief executive, Harry Cayton, said: "We have carefully considered these cases, it is regrettable that all the evidence the NMC held was not put before the panel. 

"We have found that the NMC’s investigation and its panel’s decisions were deficient but not insufficient in law. 

"We will be writing to the NMC to raise our concerns."

Evidence kept from the NMC panel as they deliberated whether or not to strike off both Ms Dixon and Ms McCullough included a statement made by Mr and Mrs Titcombe before baby Joshua died from a treatable infection aged nine days old, findings from an investigation by Cumbria Constabulary into his death and the conclusion made by south Cumbria coroner Ian Smith at the little boy's inquest.

The news has now prompted the families of those who lost loved ones in the Morecambe Bay maternity scandal to formally call upon government health secretary Jeremy Hunt to step in and overhaul the entire regulatory system in a bid to improve the safety of women and babies in the future.

JAMES TITCOMBE Mr Titcombe OBE, a patient safety campaigner, said "It's a year since the Kirkup Report was published which set out the fact there had been failings, dishonesty and cover ups.

"The process we were hoping would resolve this was the NMC but it's become clear even the NMC themselves feel the system is not as it should be.

"We have now written to Jeremy Hunt to say that the government needs to step in at this point to look at this issue properly.

"This need to be sorted out so that everyone can move forwards."

The conclusion of the PSA was also greeted with disappointment by government patient safety expert Dr Bill Kirkup - the man who lead the Morecambe Bay Investigation which found Joshua was one of 11 babies who died as a result of poor care at FGH between 2004 and 2013.

Dr Bill Kirkup CBE Dr Kirkup said: "It is extremely disappointing that following prolonged delay it now seems that the process and its outcome may not have been adequate.

“My major concern is if the panel, as has been supposed, didn’t have the relevant evidence in front of it then it’s difficult to know how it can come to a robust and defensible judgment." 

Both Ms Dixon and Ms McCullough remain employees of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust - the organisation that runs FGH - and have no restrictions on their licence to care for women and their newborn babies.

Dr David Walker, UHMBT's medical director, said the trust would co-operate fully with the PSA.

He told the Evening Mail: "The Professional Standards Authority is independent and accountable to parliament. 

"As with any other professional body, we would work with them to support any requests for information if required."