The Health Secretary has pledged a full investigation into “what went so desperately wrong” with care services at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT).
The investigation will be conducted by Dr Bill Kirkup, one of the lead investigators on the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
In a statement released last Thursday, September 12, Jeremy Hunt said: “UHMBT has been the subject of scrutiny for a number of years, following the high number of serious untoward incidents in its maternity and neonatal services.
“The families of those who were harmed or died under the care of the trust have persistently and courageously sought a full and independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding these deaths.
“I am today announcing to the House the terms of reference for the independent investigation into the management, delivery and outcomes of care provided by the maternity and neonatal services of UHMBT from January 2004 to June 2013, under the chairmanship of Dr Bill Kirkup CBE.
“Dr Kirkup is a former associate medical director at the Department of Health, and served on the Hillsborough Independent Panel.
“The investigation will primarily focus on the service provided by the trust, and the response of the trust to shortcomings previously identified.
“It will look at evidence relating to organisations external to the Trust where this will help shed light on the tragic events that occurred, and assist in producing recommendations for preventing such incidences in the future.
“The principle concern of this investigation is getting the answers the families have requested.
“Answers are required about what went so desperately wrong with the care they received, and the steps the Trust must take to ensure no other families suffer in the future.
To ensure that the investigation will meet the requirements of openness and transparency, all of its sessions will be open to family members.
Dr Kirkup plans to issue a method statement for the investigation in October 2013.
“I am grateful to him and the families for their significant contribution to the design of this investigation process. I sincerely hope that it will provide them with the answers that they seek.”
In response to the statement, John Cowdall, chair of UHMBT said: “UHMBT welcomes publication of the Terms of Reference for the Independent Investigation by the Government.
“We are fully committed to supporting the work of Dr Kirkup for the benefit of those families that have been tragically affected by previous failures.
“The new trust board will ensure that any new lessons resulting from the investigation are learnt and applied.”
MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw, said: “I hope this will be welcomed by everybody, including the families involved as a genuine and independent attempt to get to the bottom of the maternity and neo natal problems experienced in the Trust between 2004-2013.”
MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris, said he also welcomed the announcement.
He added: Dr Kirkup is extremely experienced having held a senior post at the Department for Health and he also led the Hillsborough Independent Panel.”