Who is Donna Ockenden and why is the Nottingham maternity inquiry needed?

PA image of Donna Ockenden and the Queens Medical centre
Donna Ockenden is a senior midwife with more than 30 years experience of working in health Credit: House of Commons/PA Archive

Donna Ockenden is starting her inquiry into failings of maternity services at Nottingham's hospitals.

In May, the senior midwife was appointed as the new chair into alleged failures at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Nottingham City Hospital and Queens Medical Centre.

Ms Ockenden met with families affected on Monday (July 11). After the private meeting she described the importance of listening to the families to help improve maternity services.

She described the meeting as a positive conversation and said the families thanked her for ensuring they are heard.

Who is Donna Ockenden?

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.

Donna Ockenden has started her inquiry into maternity failings at hospitals in Nottingham Credit: PA Images

Ms Ockenden was approached by families in Nottingham after chairing a review into the deaths of more than 200 babies at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

In March, the Ockenden review found 201 babies and nine mothers could have survived if an NHS trust had provided better care.

Why is the maternity inquiry in Nottingham needed?

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

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) told Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust it must make “significant and immediate improvements” to its maternity services as it said women and babies may not be safe.

The latest inspection says both Nottingham City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre require improvement and maternity services at both sites remain rated inadequate overall.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust runs Nottingham City Hospital and Queens Medical Centre Credit: PA Images

Nottingham University Hospitals says it is working hard to make the necessary improvements but recognises it has "more to do".

The families called for Donna Ockenden to chair the review after senior NHS manager Julie Dent left her role as chairwoman for "personal reasons" two weeks after being appointed.

Reaction to Donna Ockenden's appointment

After a delay in appointing a new chair, Donna Ockenden was given the job.

In a letter sent to the families, the chief operating officer of NHS England and NHS Improvement, Sir David Sloman apologised to the families for the distressed caused by the delay in announcing a new chair and said he had listened to their concerns:

He wrote: "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 orecommendations that can be implemented as quickly as possible."

One of the mothers affected, Felicity Benyon, speaks to ITV Central.

The families affected by the failures said they felt "an immense sense of relief" at Ms Ockenden's appointment.

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 has been affected by failures at Nottingham maternity services?

Felicity Benyon from Mansfield was left with a permanent urostomy bag after staff at Queen's Medical Centre did not realise they had removed her bladder during an emergency hysterectomy in 2015. 

She had been in hospital for almost five months prior to the birth, suspected to have a potentially fatal pregnancy complication called placenta percreta, where the placenta attaches itself and grows through the uterus. 

As a result of a five-year legal investigation, the 35-year-old believes the hospital did not have the right team of specialists on hand during her surgery.

Jack and Sarah Hawkins say their lives have been ruined.

Jack and Sarah Hawkins' daughter, Harriet, was stillborn at Nottingham City Hospital after a six day labour in April 2016. 

The couple received a £2.1million settlement, after mistakes by maternity staff in Nottingham, which is believed to be the largest payout for a stillbirth clinical negligence case, solicitors representing the Hawkins family said.

Speaking to ITV News Central, Mrs Hawkins said: "They killed my daughter, they ruined my career and they've devastated our lives."