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East Kent baby deaths: Baby Lifeline charity calls for government investment into NHS maternity training after scandal

A national charity is calling for the government to reinstate a multi-million pound programme to improve maternity safety following the baby death scandal at East Kent Hospitals.

The hospital trust - which runs the QEQM in Margate and William Harvey in Ashford - has been under major scrutiny recently after it was revealed at least seven babies' deaths since 2016 might not have happened if standards had been higher.

QEQM Hospital in Margate Picture: Tony Flashman
QEQM Hospital in Margate Picture: Tony Flashman

The charity Baby Lifeline has been campaigning for years on the issue of maternity safety, specifically by targeting NHS training police and investment.

Now - following the baby death scandal here in Kent and similar incidents at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trusts - the charity has partnered with advocates Hudgell Solicitors to call for the government to reintroduce an £8.1m maternity training fund into the NHS.

They are also calling for the government to reinstate the Maternity Safety Training Fund, an initiative which saw 30,000 staff access training to improve maternity care in 2016.

It comes after research revealed that two thirds of NHS maternity trusts in the country don't make attending training sessions, on caring and screening unwell new-born babies, mandatory for all staff.

Harry Richford died at QEQM Hospital
Harry Richford died at QEQM Hospital

A damning investigation into maternity services at East Kent Hospitals has revealed multiple concerns over medical practices and the possibility that some baby deaths could have been prevented.

The findings reveal that at least seven babies' deaths since 2016 might not have happened if standards had been higher.

Hospital bosses have apologised to Harry Richford's parents Sarah and Tom, from Birchington, and admitted that standards "fell short" before his death.

Little Harry died at just a week old after a traumatic birth at the QEQM in November 2017.

At a three-week long inquest, the coroner ruled the baby was "failed by the hospital" and that his death was "wholly unavoidable".

Speaking to KentOnline, Harry's grandad Derek says he is pleased about Baby Lifeline's call, and that if training had been better, his grandson could still be alive.

"I was interested to read the Baby Lifeline report showing that two thirds of trusts don't make the screening and caring of new born babies mandatory for all staff," he said.

"With everything that has gone on with Shrewbury and Telford, and of course Morecombe Bay before, surely there has to have been prior knowledge that this learning is so, so essential.

"In Harry's case, the coroner came up with 19 different recommendations to prevent future deaths, and I find it absolutely astonishing that any coroner, or any person, can come up with 19 different recommendations - and that includes training of staff.

"In Harry's case, we really, really believe that overall, had training been better, had there been better management, then Harry wouldn't have died.

"In actual fact, we are very, very confident that with the prior knowledge we know that the trust had, things could - and should -have been a whole lot better."

A review into 26 maternity cases at the trust, including several deaths, is ongoing.

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