Countess of Chester Hospital under pressure over Lucy Letby case

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Numerous staff raised concerns about the actions of baby-killer Letby as she conducted a year-long killing spree at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

The 33-year-old nurse was convicted of the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of six more during her shifts on the neonatal unit between 2015 and 2016.

The Countess of Chester Hospital is under mounting pressure over why the nurse was not removed from the neonatal unit sooner.

Dr Bill Kirkup said there were “common features” between the Lucy Letby case and reviews he has conducted into poor care in maternity units in other hospitals.

And an MP and paediatrician said it was “remarkable” that concerns of staff were not acted on.

It comes as police said they are reviewing the care of 4,000 babies who were admitted to the Countess of Chester – and also Liverpool Women’s Hospital when Letby had two work placements – going as far back as 2012.

And the Government has ordered an independent inquiry into the circumstances behind the murders and attempted murders.

Dr Kirkup, who led the reviews into poor care in maternity units in Morecambe Bay and East Kent, told BBC Breakfast: “I think there are a number of common features that underpin a lot of these different investigations and ring bells with what I’ve been hearing about what happened in the Countess of Chester Hospital, particularly the difficulty in persuading people that there’s a real problem here that must be investigated and must be looked at properly and independently.

“And particularly the chasm that can open up between clinicians who are reporting problems and managers who don’t necessarily want to hear.”

He added: “I heard yesterday for the first time in this connection, the phrase ‘protecting reputation’ on the part of the Trust and that rings a massive bell for me because that’s been a feature of everything that I’ve been involved with for the last 12 years or so.

“The first reaction of people under these circumstances in management, controlling organisations, is to protect reputations – the organisation’s reputation, their own reputation.

“And when that comes ahead of being open and honest about what’s going on, that’s tragic. We have to be able to stop this.”

A top consultant at the hospital, Dr Ravi Jayaram, was one of the whistleblowers into Letby’s behaviour.

 

Dr Ravi Jayaram.

Dr Ravi Jayaram.

 

In a strongly-worded statement on his Facebook page, he has called for those who “potentially facilitated a mass-murderer” to be held to account.

The families of her victims have said they have been left “heartbroken, devastated, angry and feel numb” by her actions.

But is expected they will not see Letby when she is sentenced on Monday after the serial killer has indicated she will not take part in the hearing at Manchester Crown Court.

Lawyers representing some of the families have vowed to continue their search for answers.

Meanwhile MP and paediatrician Dr Caroline Johnson said that it was “completely unacceptable” that Countess of Chester Hospital management did not immediately act on concerns flagged by consultants.

“To my mind, as it has been reported, it is completely unacceptable,” the Conservative MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“When you’ve got seven paediatricians, experts in their field, looking after babies in a neonatal unit telling you in their expert opinion that these events are unusual and they should not be occurring and there are unexpected collapses that are unexplained in babies that are leading to death, to then say you are not going to take action seems completely remarkable to me.”

Dr Kirkup said that the independent inquiry will give families a “chance to be heard”.

“I think the families who have suffered this unimaginable harm, need a chance to be heard, I think that the people involved at the hospital need the chance to be heard,” he said.

“Secondly, it does allow you to find out, usually very rapidly, what exactly the underlying problems were.”

Former Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Tony Chambers, who was in charge at the time, said he would co-operate “fully and openly” with the inquiry.

 

The medical director at Countess of Chester Hospital, Dr Nigel Scawn. Picture: PA.

The medical director at Countess of Chester Hospital, Dr Nigel Scawn. Picture: PA.

 

Dr Nigel Scawn, medical director at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said in a statement on Friday: “Since Lucy Letby worked at our hospital, we have made significant changes to our services and I want to provide reassurance to every patient that may access our services that they can have confidence in the care that they will receive.”

But he walked away without answering as a journalist asked: “Why did hospital managers try to stop Lucy Letby from being investigated?”


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