Leaked memo from maternity boss angers parents of babies who died under NHS Nottingham care

A leaked message from Nottingham NHS maternity boss causes families anger
Parents say the leaked memo felt like a "kick in the stomach". Credit: PA

A leaked newsletter from an NHS maternity boss has angered the parents of babies who died following alleged failures in maternity care in Nottingham.

In the memo, sent to staff on Tuesday, the director of midwifery at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust accuses the media of failing to report on "great work done".

Sharon Wallis points out that an upcoming inquiry will be "stressful and somewhat worrying" while failing to mention bereaved families.

She adds: "Some of you will no doubt have seen some of the media fall out. Yet again, they painted a damning picture of our maternity services, leaving out of their reports the great work that has been done, the improvements that have been introduced".

The maternity services at the trust will be examined by an independent inquiry which is due to start in September and is chaired by senior midwife Donna Ockenden.

It comes after a health watchdog report earlier this year outlined how maternity services at Nottingham City Hospital and Queen’s Medical Centre remained rated as inadequate overall.

The memo was sent out to staff on Tuesday (12 July)

"Hello everyone,

Yesterday (Monday 11th) Donna Ockenden met with families as part of the new independent review process. Some of you will no doubt have seen some of the media fall out. Yet again, they painted a damning picture of our maternity services, leaving out of their reports the great work that has been done, the improvements that have been introduced and the passion and commitment of all the staff.

The review is due to start in September 2022 and is expected to take about 18 months to complete and will involve a team of around 60 practising NHS maternity experts from across the UK. During the summer months, details including the terms of reference for the review will be put in place.

I know it's a stressful and somewhat worrying time for all of us. However, there are good things happening all the time and we need to hold on to these as best we can. Next week we introduce BSOTs system to our Triage and we are working with the comms team to try and get some positive media coverage to show everyone we are making improvements. Only time will tell if the media favour with this one. I for one will be keeping my fingers crossed!

We do have an engagement session planned for tomorrow (Wednesday 12:00-12:45) and it will be good to see as many of you as possible there to share your thoughts and concerns or simply ask questions. The Teams meeting invite is at the end of this newsletter.

Thank you for everything you all do, day in, day out and for the obvious hard work that goes into making our maternity services work in such challenging times. I remain proud of our team, thank you.

Sharon Wallace, Director of Midwifery."

Parents whose babies died or were injured say the note undermines the trust's commitment to properly engage with the upcoming inquiry, as Ms Wallis fails to acknowledge any issues or need to improve.

Speaking to ITV News Central Kim Errington and Jason Jason Rozkalns, whose son Teddy died just 48 hours after he was born, said the leaked memo came as a "shock" and they were "completely disappointed".

They say it's extra disappointing considering they had such positive meetings with the inquiry chair Donna Ockenden on Monday (11 July).

"Dumbstruck", said Jason, "it just seemed beyond the pale of everything we were expecting really."

"I was just in shock," said Kim, "I was shocked and disheartened and completely disappointed. Really deflated after such a positive day on Monday having that then come out was like a real kick in the stomach."

Kim also took to Twitter to challenge Sharon Wallis' words stating: "How about doing more than keeping fingers crossed and waiting for time to tell and instead embrace the needed change, encourage engagement and openness in your staff team so that lessons will be learnt and lives saved? Not hoping for positive media spin from Comms."

Jack Hawkins' daughter Harriet was born stillborn at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust in April 2016.

He said he was disappointed with the new maternity leadership team after reading the leaked message.

Speaking to ITV News Central he said, "It's really upsetting. We've had such a rocky road to get to the point where we will hopefully start seeing improvements in maternity."

"We've faced this many times before and we thought this was behind us."

Jack said he wasn't surprised the message was sent but expected more from the team.

Looking ahead to the review, Jack said he feels confident it will bring to light the care failings that hurt so many families and fast-track improvements in Nottingham maternity services.

A spokesperson for Nottingham University Hospitals Trust said: "We wholeheartedly apologise for any offence that has been caused by this message to our staff. Our newsletter to staff is intended to share learning and improvement, and our aim is to put the patient at the heart of this - this message was poorly worded and fell short of this aim, and we are truly sorry."