Nursing and Midwifery Council Lead to step down after Report Published

Posted on: May 17th, 2018

Unfortunately, it can take a long time for issues to be investigated by the professional bodies responsible for the standards of medical professionals.

Avoidable deaths occurred at a hospital while regulators took too long to act on concerns about midwives.

Eleven new borns and one mother died at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, between 2004 and 2013.

The Professional Standards Authority said the Nursing and Midwifery Council failed to react quickly enough to concerns from police and families. The NMC has apologised and admitted its approach was “unacceptable”.

Concerns at the hospital were first raised after the death of nine-day-old Joshua Titcombe in 2008 from sepsis. This prompted a highly critical government-backed report in 2015 which said a “lethal mix” of failures led to a number of deaths. Midwives who were later suspended or struck off continued to practise.
The Professional Standards Authority (PSA) ‘Lessons Learned’ review criticised the NMC for taking up to eight years to begin fitness-to-practise hearings against a number of midwives after concerns were raised.

Further the report shows how local families were systematically obstructed and failed by an organisation whose conduct has brought shame on the proud and vital profession it is supposed to represent.

NMC chief executive Jackie Smith, who has announced she will leave her post in July, said their approach to the deaths “was unacceptable and I am truly sorry for this”, further to this they had made “significant changes” since 2014 which had “put vulnerable witnesses and families affected by failings in care at the heart of our work”.

It must be devastating to the families affected by these tragedies along with the wait for the NMC to take action.

Professional bodies have seldom been the first point of call for victims of professional negligence seeking redress. We do not know at this time of the actions taken by not only the hospital in response to these tragedies, but the nature of any civil action taken will not necessarily show a trend of problems and therefore prompt action and investigations from professional bodies.

All families affected by these tragedies would have been able to investigate the circumstances of the deaths through specialist clinical lawyers such as ourselves. However, each case will be investigated in isolation and further, most likely kept quiet and confidential, at least until full evidence was obtained on the standard. Such evidence would also not become published unless there was a full civil trial in the high court.

The NHS complaint protocol is there to help people seek answered about their treatment. If this does not resolve an issue they can seek investigation from the Health Services Ombudsman. However for the quickest investigation there is little substitute for an investigation by a Clinical Law specialist.

We at Coffin Mew have investigated many clinical death and birth injuries and provide those answers which otherwise would have taken years to obtain. In the circumstances of a death, such answers may come too late to either allow for compensation payments or allowing the families to move on from such a tragedy.