Kent baby deaths inquiry urges families to come forward

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Image caption,
East Kent Hospitals Trust is being investigated over a number of maternity deaths

Families with concerns about maternity services at East Kent Hospitals NHS have been urged to take part in an inquiry into a series of baby deaths.

Dr Bill Kirkup is looking at a series of failings at the trust that led to the deaths of up to 15 babies.

More families have come forward, but he has asked anyone else with any concerns to contact the inquiry team.

"We will deal with whatever it is that you tell us confidentially and sensitively," he said.

"It may be that you don't want to take it any further but that's absolutely fine."

The independent review was announced after a series of failings came to light during the inquest of Harry Richford, who died seven days after being born at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) in Margate in November 2017.

Dr Kirkup is being assisted by five experts across the fields of obstetrics, midwifery, neonatal medicine, clinical governance and information management.

Image caption,
Helen Gittos lost her baby in 2014

Helen Gittos, whose baby was born at the QEQM in 2014 but died days later, said: "I think if they [families] have concerns about what happened to their babies then they should use this as an opportunity to talk to the Kirkup inquiry.

"This is not about blame. This is not about making things harder for NHS staff who we know are working so terribly hard.

"It is about trying to improve things for parents in future and time to make sure that mothers and fathers and babies in east Kent are well looked after and can feel that they're going to go into service which is safe and that they can trust."

Image source, Family handout
Image caption,
Harry Richford was one of the babies who died as a result of failings

Explaining the process, Dr Kirkup said: "The first step is to find out what happened in each and every case that we're aware of so that we can see where things might have gone wrong.

"Then we'll look at what was the response to something going wrong. Was it investigated properly? Were lessons learned, and then what the trust was doing and what external bodies were doing too?"

Dr Kirkup said this summer a "significant" number of families had been in touch regarding concerns over the care they received.

People can contact the Kirkup investigation team either via the website or by phone.

Dr Kirkup said families could talk to his team without being identified.

A spokeswoman for the NHS trust said: "We welcome the independent investigation and we will do everything we can to help Dr Bill Kirkup and his team."

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