Donna Ockenden will chair new review into failings at another hospital


The senior midwife who probed the NHS’s worst ever maternity scandal will chair a new review into another hospital, officials revealed today.

Donna Ockenden, who produced the landmark report on Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, will now investigate failings at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

It follows backlash at the health service’s previous review, which critics feared wasn’t truly independent.

Some 100 mothers urged Sajid Javid to appoint Ms Ockenden in April — but the NHS initially opted for senior NHS manager Julie Dent. 

Families said they were ‘severely let down, confused, and further traumatised’. They raised concerns about the independence of the old review — which was first set up in August last year.

Ms Dent quit at the start of this month citing ‘personal reasons’. 

Ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt earlier this week claimed the Department of Health had scored ‘an own goal’ in not appointing Ms Ockenden earlier. He suggested that the DHSC thought ‘she is too independent’.

Now, NHS England has formally apologised to families for the delay in appointing Ms Ockenden — scrapping the previous review and starting afresh.

Families demanding answers called her appointment a ‘significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services’.

At least nine babies and three mothers are believed to have died over the past three years at the trust, which runs 15 hospitals in the Midlands. It had previously paid out millions of pounds over 30 baby deaths and 46 infants who were left brain damaged.

Donna Ockenden, who produced the landmark report on Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, will now chair a review into another hospital

She will take over the review into Nottingham Nottingham University Hospitals after backlash at the health service’s first choice for the role. Pictured: Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham

Some 100 mothers urged Sajid Javid to appoint Ms Ockenden in April ¿ but the NHS initially opted for senior NHS manager Julie Dent (pictured)

 Some 100 mothers urged Sajid Javid to appoint Ms Ockenden in April — but the NHS initially opted for senior NHS manager Julie Dent (pictured)

What did the families say about Donna Ockenden’s appointment into the review into 

A statement on behalf of families affected said: ‘We cannot describe the immense sense of relief that we feel at the news that Donna Ockenden has been appointed to conduct the review into maternity services in Nottingham.

‘We’d like to thank the Rt Hon Sajid Javid for finally listening to us after many years of campaigning by the families affected by failures of care.

‘Donna Ockenden’s appointment is a significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services. 

‘We are confident that she will conduct a robust review to ensure the scale of failings at NUH are recognised and essential improvements are made.

‘Improvements that will protect future babies and mothers from death and harm. Improvements that will ensure women are properly listened to. 

‘Improvements that will guarantee staff have the right qualifications, training, and skills. 

‘Improvements that will create a new culture of transparency, openness, and willingness to learn from mistakes.

‘This signals the start of the next stage in the journey where families can now stop fighting and instead dedicate their strength, knowledge, and experiences to uncover the truth and improve maternity service for the people of Nottingham.’

Ms Ockenden said: ‘Having a baby is one of the most important times for a family and when women and their babies come into contact with NHS maternity services they should receive the very best and safest care.

‘We already know that improvements to maternity care need to be made across the country and families in Nottingham have been through experiences that no family should ever have to go through.

‘I am delighted to have been asked by Sir David Sloman to take up the role of Chair of this Review and will be engaging with families shortly as my first priority.’

The previous review, which was covering almost 600 cases, was expected to be completed in November this year.

It is looking at data from 2006, when the NUH trust was formed, until mid-October 2021 and was set up by the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) and NHS England.

But NHS England today announced the current team will publish its interim findings today and step down to allow Ms Ockenden’s team to take over.

The health service said it will ‘make sure these improvements are made immediately’, in light of the families’ concerns.

And Ms Ockenden’s team will start as soon as possible with new terms of reference, it said. 

Sir David Sloman, chief operating officer at NHS England and Improvement, said: ‘We are sorry for the distress caused to the families in the delay in announcing a new chair for the review.

‘We know we need to get this right for the families who have experienced such terrible loss and been through so much pain already.

‘We have listened to the concerns raised and we want to ensure the new review addresses them — it must support families to share their views and their experiences so that vital improvements can be made for mums, families and babies in Nottingham.

‘Given Donna Ockenden’s wealth of experience, we are pleased that she has agreed to chair the review — we will start work together now to develop the terms of reference so that her vital work can begin without any further delays.’

A spokesperson for the affected families said they ‘cannot describe the immense sense of relief’ they feel at Ms Ockenden’s appointment.

They said: ‘We’d like to thank the Rt Hon Sajid Javid for finally listening to us after many years of campaigning by the families affected by failures of care.

‘Donna Ockenden’s appointment is a significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services. 

‘We are confident that she will conduct a robust review to ensure the scale of failings at NUH are recognised and essential improvements are made.’

Ms Ockenden’s damning report of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust showed mothers were made to have natural births despite the fact they should have been offered a Caesarean at the hospital. 

The review found around 200 babies and nine mothers could have survived if it had provided better care while the trust’s low Caesarean rate was regarded nationally and locally as a positive.

In the review, she found the trust presided over catastrophic failings for 20 years — and did not learn from its own inadequate investigations — which led to babies being stillborn, dying shortly after birth or being left severely brain damaged.

The Shrewsbury and Telford inquiry found some babies suffered skull fractures, broken bones or developed cerebral palsy after traumatic forceps deliveries, while others were starved of oxygen and experienced life-changing brain injuries.

The report said midwifery staff were ‘overly confident’ in their abilities, and there was a reluctance to involve more senior staff.

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