'Three years to change the culture' - 100 days since Kirkup report into East Kent maternity services

  • WATCH ITV News Meridian's Kit Bradshaw speaking exclusively to the chief executive of the East Kent Hospitals Trust.

The leader of a scandal-hit NHS trust has said that changing the culture of the organisation could take three years, but that important progress has already been made. 

Tracey Fletcher was speaking 100 days on from the publication of Dr Bill Kirkup's damning report into standards of maternity services in East Kent.

It found 45 babies could have lived if their care had met national standards.

The Chief Executive of the East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust says "changing a culture of an organisation takes time" but that they have moved forward in their "improvement journey".

Ms Fletcher said: "During those hundred days and beyond those hundred days our thoughts and focus will remain with the families who were brave enough to go forward and contribute to the Kirkup investigation.

The investigation looked at hundreds of cases at the QEQM in Margate and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford. Credit: ITV News Meridian

"We've continued with our improvement journey and it's important that we relentlessly pursue the actions that we have identified and make sure that they are embedded in our survive provision. 

"One of the key things I think about the report is making sure that we accept the findings. Not only at the board level - and the board fully accepts the findings - but also across both the maternity services and indeed the trust."

"It would be well recognised nationally that changing the culture of a unit and of an organisation takes time. The timescale we've been discussing is over the next three years to develop the culture across the organisation, which sounds a long time but really it would be wrong for us to underestimate some of the messages which came across in the Kirkup report." 

Chief Executive Tracey Fletcher added: "I think the positive aspect is we're really on a journey now and that should be attractive to a whole host of people who I'm hoping will be interested to come and join me in this organisation."

The Kirkup investigation, which concluded last October, looked at hundreds of cases at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) in Margate and William Harvey Hospital in Ashford from 2009 to 2020.

Dr Kirkup concluded that 45 baby deaths could and should have been prevented.

Dr Bill Kirkup has been meeting with affected families, since he published his report to share the evidence he uncovered, but he says ministers are yet to meet with him to discuss his findings. 

"We're still waiting on a formal response from the government. I do perfectly understand that there's an enormous amount of work to be done in relation to the health service at the moment. I do see signs that they are not losing sight of the maternity aspect of that and I am due to meet a health minister next week."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We thank Dr Kirkup for his review of East Kent maternity services which explores a range of serious and complex issues which this government takes extremely seriously.

"We are actively reviewing the recommendations alongside existing work to improve maternity services and will respond in full as soon as possible."