Donna Ockenden ‘Delighted’ to Lead Review of ‘Inadequate’ Nottingham Maternity – ‘Immense Relief’ for Families

NHS England has confirmed that Donna Ockenden will chair a new independent review into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) Trust. NUH runs both the Nottingham City Hospital and the Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC).

The senior midwife-led an inquiry that found over 200 babies at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust could have survived with better maternity care.

She is now tasked with leading an inquiry into NUH, taking over from a local review team. This comes after families wrote to the Health Secretary Sajid Javid, airing their concerns over the experience and objectivity of the local group to adequately handle such large-scale issues.

The NHS has responded with the announcement of a major shift in approach. The local group has been branded “not fit for purpose,” and Ms Ockenden is expected to lead a new national review with renewed terms of reference starting July.

Ms Ockenden said: “I was absolutely honoured to be approached by the families to lead the review of maternity services in Nottingham and then deeply honoured to be asked by NHS England to chair this review.”

‘Inadequate’ Maternity Services

The Nottingham University Hospitals Trust has received sustained criticism from families and regulators for its maternity services.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently released a report rating maternity services at the trust as “inadequate.” The healthcare regulator issued the safety warning following unannounced inspections at NUH in March.

The CQC report highlighted a lack of maternity staff with the right experiences, training, skills, and qualifications to manage observations of women, provide the right care, and keep patients safe from avoidable harm.

This partly coincides with an interim report by the now-abandoned thematic review that pointed to “evidence of a lack of respect, appreciation and listening by some staff members in relation to their colleagues and to service users with some indications of bullying behaviour”.

According to the CQC’s director of operations, Midlands network, Fiona Allinson, “It is disappointing that despite several inspections where the CQC has told the trust areas they must improve to keep mums and babies safe, serious problems remain.” The health watchdog called for “significant and immediate improvements” to the trust’s maternity services.

Responding to the CQC report, Ms Ockenden said: “It makes stark reading, and clearly the maternity services at the trust have got a lot of work to do and they need to do it at pace.”

There can be no doubt that many, many families have been deeply hurt with life-changing injuries and deaths. Clearly we need to get to the bottom of what has happened.”

She added: “What I know at the moment is that there are so many families who have been through, for the most of us anyway, unimaginable grief.

“And of course the pain that they will have suffered through the loss of their babies will have been compounded by having to push for effective investigations or inquiries.

Heeding Families’ Call for a Robust Review

In response to the “various views” shared by Nottingham families, the chief operating officer for NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sir David Sloman, said, “I can confirm that Donna Ockenden has agreed to chair the new review and we will work with her to develop a new terms of reference that reflects the need to both drive urgent improvements to local maternity care and the need to deliver actionable recommendations that can be implemented as quickly as possible.”

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

Ms Ockenden commented on her appointment to chair the Nottingham maternity review, saying she was “delighted” and her first priority would be “listening to and engaging with families.”

Families affected by the alleged maternity failings at NHU expressed their “immense relief,” with a statement saying: “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.”

Donna Ockenden plans to start engaging with Nottingham families after she concludes her review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in early July. “I’m sure the families in Nottingham will understand that I do need to complete on my commitments to the families in Shrewsbury,” she said.

According to the director of midwifery at Nottingham University Hospitals, Sharon Wallis, “Our teams are working hard to make the necessary improvements, but recognise we have more to do and are absolutely determined to speed up the pace of change and deliver quality services for women and their families.”

The appointment of senior midwife Ms Ockenden presents improved opportunities for possible failings at the trust to be uncovered, for the aggrieved families to find answers, and for improvements in maternity care to be implemented.

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