Donna Ockenden appointed as new chair of Nottingham maternity care failings review

Donna Ockenden has been appointed as the new chair into alleged failures in NHS maternity units in Nottingham.

The review comes after some 100 mothers wrote to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to criticise the thematic review of maternity incidents.

They called for Donna Ockenden, who led the investigation into the baby death scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, to be put in charge.

It comes as the old chairwoman into the review stepped down two weeks after her appointment.

Senior NHS manager Julie Dent had left for "personal reasons", the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. She was appointed on April 22.

On Thursday, NHS England apologised to families for the delay in appointing Ms Ockenden as chair of the review.

In a letter sent to the families today, the Chief Operating Officer of NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sir David Sloman said: "I want to begin by apologising for the distress caused by the delay in our announcing a new Chair and to take this opportunity to update you on how the work to replace the existing Review has been developing as we have taken on board various views that you have shared with us."

He added: "We have listened to your concerns.

"I can confirm that Donna Ockenden has agreed to chair the new Review and we will work with her to develop a new Terms of Reference that reflects the need to both drive urgent improvements to local maternity care and the need to deliver actionable recommendations that can be implemented as quickly as possible."

In a statement released today the Families affected by failures said: “We cannot describe the immense sense of relief that we feel at the news that Donna Ockenden has been appointed to conduct the review into maternity services in Nottingham.

"We’d like to thank the Rt. Hon Sajid Javid for finally listening to us after many years of campaigning by the families affected by failures of care.

"Donna Ockenden’s appointment is a significant step towards restoring confidence in Nottingham maternity services.

"We are confident that she will conduct a robust review to ensure the scale of failings at NUH are recognised and essential improvements are made."

They added: "This signals the start of the next stage in the journey where families can now stop fighting and instead dedicate their strength, knowledge, and experiences to uncover the truth and improve maternity service for the people of Nottingham.”

In a statement after her appointment, Ms Ockenden said: "We already know that improvements to maternity care need to be made across the country and families in Nottingham have been through experiences that no family should ever have to go through."

Who is Donna Ockenden?

Donna Ockenden giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee Credit: House of Commons/PA Archive

Donna Ockenden is a senior midwife with more than 30 years experience of working within a variety of health settings both in the UK and internationally.

Ms Ockenden's career spans a number of sectors including acute providers, commissioning, hospital, community and education.

She was the Chair of the England Royal College of Midwives (RCM) between 2006 and  2014.

DHSC said the NHS recognises there is more to do to improve the engagement and communication with families, and this is a priority as a new review process is established.

It added that the NHS remains committed to ensuring that the experiences of families, any themes identified across maternity safety incidents, and concerns raised, all drive rapid improvements in care for women and babies in Nottingham.