BREAKING NEWS: Jeremy Hunt announces independent inquiry into care failures at Morecambe Bay health trust

Royal Lancaster Infirmary.'The original old building.
Royal Lancaster Infirmary.'The original old building.
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The Health Secretary has just announced that there will be a full independent investigation into care services at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT).

In a written ministerial statement, released today, Thursday September 12, Jeremy Hunt said: “University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust (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 – 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.

“This is not an investigation into the regulatory and supervisory systems of the NHS, as these issues have only recently been examined by the second Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry, and the Department of Health will publish its full response in due course.

“Nor is it a Public Inquiry as the requirements for public evidence sessions are not considered suitable for the privacy and tact with which this investigation must be undertaken. To ensure that the investigation will meet the requirements of openness and transparency, all of its sessions will be open to family members.

The investigation is expected to report to me by next summer and a copy of the full terms of reference has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon Members from the Vote Office and to noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office.

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: “University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust 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.”

“We look forward to a further update from the investigation about its work in due course.”

MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, Eric Ollerenshaw, said: “I hope this will be welcomed by everybody, including the families involved as a genuine and independant attempt to get to the bottom of the maternity and neo natal problems experienced in the Trust between 2004-2013.

“The Secretary of State has demonstrated real sensitivity in setting up an inquiry that will not meet in public but will be open to the family members at all times, in order to ensure transparency and openness.”

MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale, David Morris, said: “I welcome the Secretary of State for Health’s announcement that Dr. Bill Kirkup CBE will carry out an independent investigation into the management, outcome and care provided at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Trust. Dr Kirkup is extremely experienced having held a senior post at the Department for Health and he also lead the Hillsborough Independent Panel.”