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Reading the signals report on maternity and neonatal services in East Kent

Posted on 27th October 2022 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Helena Campbell

Associate & Chartered Legal Executive
Reading the signals report on maternity and neonatal services in East Kent

We are saddened to read another report following an inquiry into maternal care which concluded that 45 babies might have survived if they had received better care at East Kent NHS Hospitals Trust.

In an inquiry chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup, the report expressed strong concerns at the state of maternity services in England, and renewed calls for urgent action to address safety concerns.  Dr Kirkup added that the trust had given the appearance of "covering up the scale and systemic nature" of its problems.

The inquiry uncovered a clear pattern of sub-optimal care that led to significant harm, and said families were ignored.

The medical experts reviewed an 11-year period from 2009 at two hospitals in Margate and Ashford under the care of East Kent NHS Hospital Trust, who have apologised for the avoidable harm and suffering to families who lost babies and were denied the answers they deserved. 

The investigation found harm was not just restricted to physical damage, and there was a repeated lack of kindness and compassion even in the aftermath of injuries and deaths.  At Tozers, we act for families affected by baby loss and neonatal death and providing empathy and support after such tragedy is crucial and fundamental to health care and humanity.

Many families believed they were treated with contempt by the hospital trust and its staff, when asking why their baby had died, whether there would be an investigation and if they could request an inquest.

Dr Kirkup's team also found "gross failures" of team-working across the trust's maternity services, with some staff acting as if they were responsible for "separate fiefdoms, cultivating a culture of tribalism".

Medical negligence charity, Action against Medical Accidents, have welcomed the report of this inquiry, and chief executive Peter Walsh said:

“The report is vindication for those women and families who suffered avoidable harm and whose concerns were initially ignored…the report is clear and pull no punches, as you would expect from Bill Kirkup.  However, we are seeking the same themes as we saw at Shrewsbury and Telford and Morecambe Bay before that.  Currently there is an investigation into grave problems at Nottingham’s maternity services, led by Donna Ockenden.  38% of maternity services in England are rated inadequate or requiring improvement, and the number of clinical negligence claims about maternity services has gone up by 20%....”

The loss of a baby at any stage is devastating for families.  The outcome of this report and another scandal, alongside all other historic and ongoing investigations in relation to maternal care in England is worrying. 

Our specialist lawyers within our medical negligence department have acted for many families affected by baby loss and neonatal death and understand the need to be treated fairly and provided with answers.   


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