Lucy Letby: who ran the hospital she worked at and where are they now? | Lucy Letby

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The trial of Lucy Letby, the nurse convicted of murdering seven babies and trying to kill six others, has raised urgent questions about whether she could have been stopped sooner.

One executive, Alison Kelly, was first told about Letby’s association with three unexplained sudden deaths on 2 July 2015 – but the nurse was not removed from the neonatal unit until a year later.

The senior doctor who first raised the alarm, Dr Stephen Brearey, has told the Guardian that at least two babies would have been saved if hospital managers had acted earlier.

None of the executives were required to give evidence during Letby’s 10-month trial at Manchester crown court but all are expected to testify to the independent inquiry into the hospital’s actions.

Here, we look at the key executives involved and where they are now.

Tony Chambers

Chambers was the chief executive of the Countess of Chester NHS foundation trust at the time of Letby’s killing spree in the year to June 2016.

He has said he was first told of “serious concerns” about the nurse in late June 2016 after she murdered her final victims, two triplet boys, within 24 hours of each other.

Chambers, 57, said he took “prompt action” upon learning of these concerns, moving Letby off the neonatal unit, even though he was told at that time that she was an “enthusiastic, capable and committed nurse”.

In January 2017 he decided that Letby should be allowed to return to the neonatal unit based on two external reviews that executives felt exonerated her of any wrongdoing.

However, these reviews were not set up to investigate whether Letby had harmed the babies and both concluded that several unexplained deaths required further “forensic” investigations.

Tony Chambers ordered senior doctors to apologise to Letby for raising concerns she was harming babies in her care. Photograph: Countess of Chester hospital

Despite this, he ordered the senior doctors to apologise to her for raising concerns that she was harming the babies in her care.

Five months later, in late April 2017, Chambers contacted Cheshire constabulary to ask that they investigate the unexplained deaths. This came days after the senior doctors had outline their concerns to a detective in the force and he had urged them to formally report the matter to police.

Chambers resigned from his £160,000-a-year role in September 2018, three months after Letby was arrested, saying the past months had been “particularly challenging” and it was the right time for the hospital “to focus on its future and for me to explore new opportunities and the next stage of my career”.

He went on to work for several other NHS trusts as interim chief executive after leaving the Countess of Chester hospital. Most recently, he was interim chief executive at the Queen Victoria hospital in West Sussex until 2 June 2023.

Ian Harvey

Harvey, 65, was the medical director and deputy chief executive at the Countess of Chester hospital at the time of the murders.

He reportedly became aware of the rising death rate on the neonatal unit in November 2015, by which time Letby had murdered five babies and tried to kill three others.

He was alerted to the fact that Letby was on duty for each of these suspicious incidents in early February 2016, when the unit’s clinical lead Dr Stephen Brearey sent him a report by an independent external neonatologist and asked for an “urgent” meeting. No meeting took place until May 2016, three months later.

The senior doctors told inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in early February 2016 that they had raised patient safety concerns with senior management but felt that they had been ignored. The CQC said it alerted Harvey to these concerns the same day.

The former orthopaedic surgeon, who earned up to £175,000 a year as medical director, retired with a pension pot worth a reported £1.8m in August 2018. This was four weeks after Letby’s first arrest. He moved that same month to the south of France, his former neighbours in Cheshire said.

Dr Ian Harvey was alerted Letby had been on duty for each of the suspicious incidents in early February 2016, but didn’t convene a meeting to discuss it until three months later. Photograph: Countess of Chester hospital

Addressing the board before his departure, he joked: “There is no doubt this team has been tested. It’s all Tony [Chambers]’s fault.”

Dr Susan Gilby, who replaced Chambers as chief executive of the Countess of Chester hospital, told the BBC that before his retirement Harvey urged her to report Brearey and his consultant colleagues to the General Medical Council.

She said Harvey and other executives were more concerned with protecting the hospital’s reputation than thoroughly investigating the concerns raised by the senior doctors.

In a statement to the Times, Harvey blamed the doctors for failing to spot insulin records that showed two boys had been poisoned eight months apart: “These serious medication errors were never brought to my attention either directly, or through the trust’s Datix incident-reporting system.”

He added: “At this time my thoughts are with the babies whose treatment has been the focus of the trial and with their parents and relatives who have been through something unimaginable.”

Alison Kelly

Kelly was the head of nursing during Letby’s killings. She was the first executive to be told of the nurse’s connection to three unexplained deaths in the space of a fortnight in June 2016. This was the same number of babies who would die in an average year on the neonatal unit.

She was alerted to Letby’s presence when these deaths occurred in a meeting with Brearey and Eirian Powell, the ward manager, on 2 July 2015. At that stage, Letby’s presence was believed to be coincidental.

As the number of unexplained deaths and collapses increased, Kelly was asked for help by Powell on 17 March 2016. Powell’s plea reportedly went unanswered and she twice had to chase for a meeting, getting one 56 days later.

At the beginning of May 2016, Brearey emailed Kelly flagging Letby’s presence at the deaths and asking for a meeting. Kelly is reported to have sent this email to Harvey, the medical director, expressing concern that a senior doctor was implicating a nurse and told him that she had seen no evidence but that a wider review might be needed.

Alison Kelly had expressed concern that a senior doctor wanted to implicate Letby over the babies’ deaths. Photograph: Countess of Chester hospital

Letby was allowed to remain on the unit after Powell produced a brief review of a number of the unusual deaths, stating that there was “no evidence whatsoever against [Letby] other than coincidence”. It went on to blame other NHS bodies for the rise in deaths.

On 11 May 2016, Brearey met Kelly and Harvey to discuss Letby but felt that his concerns were dismissed. The following month Letby murdered two identical triplets and tried to kill a sixth baby before she was removed from the unit in early July 2016.

Kelly is the director of nursing at the Rochdale Care Organisation, within the Northern Care Alliance NHS foundation trust. It is one of the largest NHS trusts in the country and employs 20,000 staff.

The Northern Care Alliance announced on Monday that she had been suspended but did not comment further.

In a statement released on Friday after the verdicts, Kelly said it was “impossible to imagine the heartache suffered by the families involved and my thoughts are very much with them”.

She added: “These are truly terrible crimes and I am deeply sorry that this happened to them. We owe it to the babies and their families to learn lessons and I will fully cooperate with the independent inquiry announced.”

Karen Moore (formerly Rees)

Moore was one of Letby’s line managers. The trial heard that Moore refused to remove Letby from duty after the deaths of two babies within 24 hours.

Moore, who now lives on a farm in Wales, said she was “completely unaware of any complaints” about Letby before 24 June 2016 – the day Letby’s final murder victim, an identical triplet, was killed. Letby had murdered his brother the previous day.

The trial heard Karen Moore had refused to remove Letby from duty after the deaths of two babies within 24 hours. Photograph: Countess of Chester hospital

Moore has said that as soon as Brearey and another consultant came to her with concerns, she notified Kelly, the then director of nursing.

Brearey told the trial that he asked Moore to remove Letby from the neonatal unit in a phone call on the evening of 24 June 2016. He testified that he approached Moore because she was “familiar with the concerns already”.

The doctor told the jury that Moore declined to do so, alleging “there was no evidence” to warrant an investigation.

She left the trust in 2018 and now runs a holiday rental near her home in Denbighshire, north Wales. She said she was “taking legal advice” about allegations she refused to act on warnings about Letby.

Stephen Cross

Cross, 73, was the hospital’s director of legal services and head of corporate affairs. He has been accused by senior doctors of putting the trust’s reputation above patient safety.

Two consultant paediatricians told the Guardian that Cross said contacting the police would be “terrible” for the hospital and that it would turn the neonatal unit into a crime scene.

He allegedly made the remarks in July 2016, when senior doctors first suggested contacting Cheshire constabulary. The force was not briefed until almost a year later, in May 2017.

The Guardian has made repeated attempts to contact Cross. A family member who answered the telephone at his home in Chester refused to comment and disconnected the call. A relative has told other journalists: “He has nothing to say.”

Cross, a former police officer, is a director of the Chester Freemasons.

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