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NHS trust prosecuted over baby death – in first legal action of its kind

Written by on 9 October 2020

An NHS trust is being prosecuted by the Care Quality Commission over the death of a baby in 2017.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust faces two charges of failing to provide safe care and treatment, in the first prosecution of its kind.

Harry Richford died a week after an emergency delivery at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

An inquest into his death found it was a “wholly avoidable” tragedy.

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An inquest into his death found it was a ‘wholly avoidable’ tragedy

In a statement, the Care Quality Commission said on Friday: “The trust is charged with exposing Harry Richford and his mother Sarah Richford to significant risk of avoidable harm.

“Baby Harry tragically died on the 9 November 2017, seven days after he was born on the 2 November.

“The CQC is unable to comment further at this time due to legal restrictions.”

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Harry’s grandfather, Derek Richford, said: “We are pleased that the CQC have made the landmark decision in making a criminal prosecution of the East Kent Hospitals Trust regarding the unsafe care and treatment of Sarah and Harry Richford.

“It will now be for the courts to hear all of the evidence that the CQC and our family have amassed over the last three years and to decide whether the clinical care and treatment offered at that time could be considered safe.

“Or whether there was a criminal breach of the duty of care that was clearly owed to both Sarah and Harry at their most vulnerable time.”

Harry was born at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Margate
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Harry was born at the hospital in Margate in November 2017

Care for mothers and newborn babies at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has been heavily criticised following a series of baby deaths.

It is thought there have been at least seven preventable baby deaths at the trust since 2016.

Harry’s mother Sarah Richford was taken to theatre for an emergency caesarean section for the birth on 2 November.

The inquest heard Harry should have been delivered within 30 minutes at 2am – but instead he was delivered at 3.32am, 92 minutes after an expert had advised he should have been delivered.

It was also found that an inexperienced doctor was in charge of the birth, and there was a failure to request support from a consultant earlier.

Sarah and Tom Richford outside Maidstone Coroner's Court on Friday after the conclusion of the inquest into the death of their son Harry Richford. Harry died seven days after he was born in November 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate.
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Sarah and Tom Richford outside Maidstone Coroner’s Court in January after the conclusion of the inquest into the death of their son.

The Care Quality Commission carried out a no-notice inspection on the trust after it had admitted it had “not always provided the right standard of care” in its maternity services.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch has been investigating the trust since July 2018 following a series of baby deaths.

An independent report published in April by the Department of Health and Social Care outlined 24 maternity investigations carried out since July 2018, including the deaths of three babies and two mothers.

Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation into serious maternity failings at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, has been appointed to carry out an independent review into East Kent Hospitals’ maternity services.

East Kent Hospitals chief executive Susan Acott said: “We are deeply sorry and apologise unreservedly for our failure to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in the death of baby Harry in November 2017.

“Mr and Mrs Richford’s expectation was that they would welcome a healthy baby into their family. We are deeply sorry that we failed in our role to help them do that and for the devastating loss of baby Harry.

“We recognise the mistakes in both Harry’s delivery and subsequent resuscitation and that Harry’s family was not given the support and answers they needed at the time. We deeply regret the extra pain that this caused them.

“The Trust has admitted to the CQC that it failed to provide safe care and treatment, for which we are profoundly sorry.”