East Kent hospitals to be charged by watchdog over Harry Richford death

  • Video report from ITV Meridian reporter Tony Green

The body running hospitals in east Kent is to be charged over the death of a baby at one of its hospitals, the health watchdog has said. 

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation trust was to be charged with exposing Harry Richford and his mother Sarah Richford to significant risk of avoidable harm.

Harry Richford died in November 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate. 

An inquest later found that his death was "wholly avoidable."

Harry’s parents, who are both teachers, welcomed the decision and said they hope Harry’s death will spark change.

“I think it’s monumental,” Mrs Richford, 32, said.

“I think we wanted people to be held accountable for what happened and for some sort of justification for what happened, and I feel like we have got answers from the inquest and I feel like we are being heard, and Harry didn’t die for no reason.

“We’ve got some of those answers and feel like we’ve made a change.”

Tom Richford, also 32, said: “We didn’t want Harry’s life to be in vain.

“He only lived for seven days but ultimately we wanted those seven days to make a difference on the world, perhaps the difference he would’ve made if he wasn’t born without any injuries.

“We hope all of these changes that are going forward being made in Harry’s name, then he has made a significant difference in his short life.”

Dr Bill Kirkup, who is leading the review into maternity services, spoke to ITV Meridian about the scale of his investigation.

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) has been investigating East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation 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 undertaken 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.

In a statement, 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.”

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.”