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East Kent baby deaths: Governors grill hospital chiefs in private after issues with 26 maternity cases leads to NHS investigation

Hospital chiefs have been grilled by governors about the issue of preventable baby deaths at east Kent hospitals - but in private.

An extraordinary meeting of what is known as the council of governors took place last week behind closed doors to consider the issue and how it was being addressed.

Harry Richford and Archie Powell
Harry Richford and Archie Powell

Governors of the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust, which runs Ashford's William Harvey, QEQM at Margate and Kent & Canterbury among others, took the unusual step of exercising their powers to call for a meeting amid concerns they had not been kept fully informed about the events.

Trust board directors, including chief executive Susan Acott, were summoned to attend the meeting to answer questions from governors some of whom are understood to have had misgivings over the lack of information they had been provided with.

Governors also discussed a coroner’s report on Harry Richford, the baby who died seven days after his emergency delivery at the QEQM Hospital in Margate. The coroner ruled the death was "wholly avoidable."

Archie Powell has also died while in the trust's care at QEQM. It has previously been revealed he may have lived if it hadn't been for a delay in crucial care.

The governors, who are publicly elected, are by law required to hold trust chiefs to account for the performance of hospitals.

Sarah and Tom Richford with Harry before he died
Sarah and Tom Richford with Harry before he died

A code of governance states that in performing that role “governors must have appropriate information and an understanding of the decisions being made by the board.”

Some 26 maternity cases at hospitals in Margate and Ashford are being investigated by the NHS's Healthcare Safety Branch.

This week a further four cases came to light. The trust has apologised for the care provided in two and is investigating a third. It has denied any wrongdoing in the fourth case.

Governors contacted by KentOnline declined to comment on the meeting but one issued a statement saying the council would not stint from efforts to improve standards.

Alex Lister said: “The trust must provide an excellent standard of care to every mother and child who uses its maternity service, and as governors we will not rest until we, the public and the regulators are confident that the trust is doing so.”

The trust runs the William Harvey Hospital
The trust runs the William Harvey Hospital

He urged other families who had concerns about the care they had received to get in touch directly.

“I would encourage anyone who has concerns about the healthcare they have received to come forward and get in touch with us directly. You will be believed and you will be taken seriously,” he added.

The issue of preventable baby deaths are expected to be the subject of further questions at a trust board meeting on Wednesday.

The scheduled meeting is being held at the William Harvey hospital in Ashford.

Earlier Canterbury Labour MP Rosie Duffield said deaths could have been avoided if a new hospital had been built.

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

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