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Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield claims baby deaths at East Kent Hospitals could have been avoided

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A baby death scandal in east Kent could have been avoided if a new hospital was up and running in Canterbury, claims city MP Rosie Duffield.

Sub-standard maternity services in Margate and Ashford have hit national headlines in recent weeks following reports of a number of preventable deaths at both hospitals.

Harry Richford (left) and Archie Powell are among the babies to have died
Harry Richford (left) and Archie Powell are among the babies to have died

Authorities are now examining 26 maternity cases across the east Kent trust.

Ms Duffield is among those calling for a public inquiry, claiming babies’ lives would not have been put at risk if maternity services had been centralised at a ‘super hospital’ in the city.

“The failures in maternity provision as we’ve seen in recent media reports simply can’t be allowed to happen again,” the Labour MP said.

“We owe it to our hospital staff and families alike to implement immediate and meaningful improvement to the service.

“Babies’ lives were put at risk in east Kent hospitals. I am convinced that this would not have been the case if we had a modern, fully-funded hospital in Canterbury.”

Labour MP Rosie Duffield
Labour MP Rosie Duffield

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the family of little Harry Richford, who died at a week old due to a string of failures at the QEQM in Margate, are also calling for the probe.

It comes after the Care Quality Commission recently arrived unannounced to inspect the QEQM and William Harvey in Ashford.

The Health Services Inspection Board has also been examining 26 individual maternity cases.

Both were due to report back to ministers on Monday. A Department of Health spokesman confirmed the reports were received and ministers would “lay out our next steps shortly”.

The scandal comes as a long-awaited reshuffle of services at the William Harvey, Kent & Canterbury and QEQM is still yet to go out to consultation.

QEQM Hospital in Margate
QEQM Hospital in Margate

One option is to retain maternity units at the QEQM and William Harvey, with all specialist services and a major trauma unit based at Ashford.

The other is to centralise most hospital services at a new facility in Canterbury, including a major A&E department and maternity unit.

In January, the two options were confirmed to be included in a “pre-consultation business case” to be reviewed by NHS England, NHS Improvement and the South East Clinical Senate.

Ms Duffield added: “It seems clear to me that the delayed decision on the reorganisation of acute services is detrimental to the health and wellbeing of my constituents. I do not want to see any further delays in this already long drawn-out process.”

Multiple concerns over medical practices and the possibility that some baby deaths could have been prevented have been exposed in recent weeks.

"Babies’ lives were put at risk in east Kent hospitals. I am convinced that this would not have been the case if we had a modern, fully-funded hospital in Canterbury..."

The findings of a BBC investigation revealed that at least seven since 2016 might not have happened if standards had been higher at the trust. More have since come out.

Last week a coroner published a Prevention of Future Deaths report outlining 19 recommendations for improvements at the trust after the “wholly avoidable” death of baby Harry Richford.

In a statement released by the hospitals trust, a spokesman said a number of changes have already been made to maternity services, but the scale of change needed has not taken place quickly enough.

“We recognise that we have not always provided the right standard of care for every woman and baby in our hospitals and we wholeheartedly apologise to families for whom we could have done things differently,” she said.

Meanwhile, it has emerged trust governors have grilled hospital bosses over the scandal behind closed doors.

To keep up-to-date with all the latest developments with your local hospitals and other health stories, click here.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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