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The hospital Trust board and our maternity clinicians are working closely with some of England’s leading maternity experts and with our health regulators to ensure that we have done - and we are continuing to do – everything we can to make rapid improvements to maternity care and to learn the lessons from past failures.

In January 2020 the inquest into the sad and tragic death of baby Harry Richford found that his death was wholly avoidable.

The death of any baby in a hospital maternity unit touches all of us. The loss of a life before it has barely begun is always deeply saddening. When it involves serious failings in the provision of care – as it did in the case of Harry Richford – it’s not just heart-breaking, it’s a tragedy.  

It was clear that for some time we had not provided all the people of East Kent with the high level of maternity care they need and deserve. We apologise from the bottom of our hearts to Harry’s parents, to the rest of his family and to other families we have failed.

In February 2020 the government health minister, Nadine Dorries MP, announced that Dr Bill Kirkup would lead an independent investigation of maternity services in East Kent.

On 19 October 2022 Dr Kirkup's report Reading the signals was published on the Government website. On Friday 21 October 2022 the Trust's Board met in public to discuss the report and accepted it and its recommendations in full.

Statements given by our chair and Council of Governors at the extraordinary Board meeting to receive the report.

The report details systemic failures in care that led to significant harm, a failure to listen to families and staff, actions which made families experiences unacceptably and distressingly poor, and a series of missed opportunities to tackle the problems effectively.

It finds that had care been given to the nationally recognised standards, the outcome could have been different in 97 of the 202 cases assessed by the Panel (48% cases) and the outcome could have been different in 45 of the 65 baby deaths (69% cases).

The panel was unable to detect any discernible improvement in outcomes or suboptimal care, as evidenced by the cases assessed over the period from 2009 to 2020.

The report identifies four areas for action for the Trust and wider NHS:

  • identifying poorly performing units
  • giving care with compassion and kindness
  • teamworking with a common purpose
  • responding to challenge with honesty

In addition, a key recommendation for the Trust is to accept the reality of these findings; acknowledge in full the unnecessary harm that has been caused; and embark on a restorative process addressing the problems identified, in partnership with families, publicly and with external input.

We fully accept the report’s findings and apologise unreservedly for the harm and suffering experienced by women and babies who were within our care, together with their families. We recognise that families came to us expecting that we would care for them safely, and we failed them.

We live and work among the people who use our services and we want to be their hospital of choice, providing safe services in a compassionate way.

We are determined to provide an excellent standard of care to every mother and child who uses our maternity service, and we will not rest until we, the public and our regulators are confident we are doing so.

In this section of our Trust website you will find regular updates about our maternity service, progress against our improvement programme and how we are responding to Dr Kirkup's report.