East Kent Hospitals Trust will be prosecuted over the avoidable death of seven day old Harry Richford at Margate’s QEQM Hospital in 2017.
The Care Quality Commission is to charge the Trust with two offences of failing to provide safe care and treatment,. It will be the first case of its kind against a Trust brought under powers the CQC was given in 2015.
On July 30 the CQC wrote to the Trust indicating that it was considering a prosecution of the organisation for a breach of Regulation 12 of the Health & Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.
The inquest had heard of the “panic” after Harry was born by emergency Caesarean section during which his heartbeat kept dropping. Harry died seven days after his delivery from a condition caused by a lack of oxygen. An independent report said he might have survived had there not been a delay in resuscitation at his birth that caused irreversible brain damage.
On January 24) Coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks agreed with that conclusion and said Harry and his parents had been ‘failed.’
There was also criticism of the hospital trust which had said Harry’s death was expected, resulting in his parents, Tom and Sarah Richford, from Birchington, having to fight for an inquest.
The couple were supported by North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, who commended them for their ‘courage and quiet dignity.’
The CQC said in a statement: “The trust is charged with exposing Harry Richford and his mother, Sarah Richford, to significant risk of avoidable harm.
“Baby Harry tragically died on the 9 November 2017, seven days after he was born on the 2 November.
“CQC is unable to comment further at this time due to legal restrictions.”
Harry’s grandad 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 3 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.
“In the meantime, the Kirkup Inquiry will carry on their work looking into the way maternity services were delivered since 2009 for all families affected, with the aim of finding the truth and ensuring these circumstances cannot be repeated. We would encourage anyone with any kind of maternity issue in East Kent since 2009 to make contact with the Inquiry to share their story.
“Our family have been in the spotlight for nearly 3 years; now is our time to pass the responsibility of finding the truth and ensuring lasting change in East Kent to The CQC, the Courts, Bill Kirkup and indeed the government. With this in mind we would ask for our privacy to be respected at this time.”
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.”
The troubled maternity service has been subject to a report by the Health and Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) which found recurrent patient safety risks at the Trust maternity sites at QEQM Margate and William Harvey Hospital and is subject to a review commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement into the maternity and neonatal services. The investigation is being led by Dr Bill Kirkup and is expected to cover the period since 2009. Dr Kirkup expects to report in 2021.
It is thought that as many as 40 families have now come forward to the review with concerns.
The charges are that between November 1-2, 2017 at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, failed to discharge a duty imposed on it by Regulation 12(1) of the Regulations, in that it failed to provide safe care and treatment exposing Sarah Richford, to a significant risk of avoidable harm.
And on the same dates the Trust failed to provide safe care and treatment exposing Harry Richford, to a significant risk of avoidable harm.
Call to resign
Kent County Councillor Karen Constantine has called for Trust CEO Susan Acott to step down, saying: “It is extremely regrettable and very sad that the trust is going to be prosecuted. The trust now need to redouble their efforts to rebuild public trust and confidence. It is time for a new CEO. Susan Acott must now accept that the responsibility for these systemic management failings, leading to loss of life, and the danger reputation of the trust is hers and hers alone.
“There are far too many failings at EKHUFT for this to be overlooked any further. We need a new CEO urgently for the public to feel secure about their, and their loved ones health care and well-being at this trust. I have written to Matt Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to raise my concerns. The residents of Thanet deserve much, much better than this blighted service. Likewise our NHS staff need strong dependable leadership.”