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NMC suspends Morecambe Bay midwife linked to baby deaths


A Morecambe Bay midwife guilty of failings linked to a baby’s death eight years ago has now been suspended by the Nursing and Midwifery Council as new details emerged about her link to another death this February.

The NMC has launched an external review of its own handling of the case against Lindsey Biggs, which took seven years to conclude. Ms Biggs has been sacked by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust for gross misconduct.

An NMC fitness to practise panel earlier this month found her guilty of failings which reduced the chances of survival for baby Joshua Titcombe at Furness General Hospital in 2008. His death led to investigations into the trust, which resulted in the Kirkup report last year.

Many of the proven failings against Ms Biggs in relation to Joshua’s death appear to be repeated in the allegations made by the trust after a baby’s death earlier this year.

”The constant delays in this case show that the NMC cannot possibly be fulfilling their statutory function”

James Titcombe 

Joshua’s father James Titcombe said the delays in progressing the case against Ms Biggs and the details of the latest death raised serious questions over the NMC’s ability to protect the public.

Ms Biggs now faces a potential police investigation after the fitness to practise panel found she had failed to carry out observations on Joshua in October 2008 and failed to escalate his low temperature to a doctor. She also did not keep adequate notes of the care she provided.

Midwife Holly Parkinson also failed to document advice from a paediatrician and failing to escalate his low temperature.

The NMC panel said these failures meant Joshua lost “a significant chance of survival”.

Cumbria police confirmed to Nursing Times’ sister title HSJ it is reviewing the findings of the NMC panel after Ms Biggs accepted she had not recorded observations on Joshua despite signing records to say that she had.

Detective chief inspector Doug Marshall said: “I can confirm that a complaint has been received by Cumbria constabulary and I am currently reviewing it.”

Ms Biggs was sacked by the trust last month after the death of a baby in February.

New details over what happened have emerged in an interim suspension order by the NMC to prevent Ms Biggs working before the next hearing in October, when she will learn whether or not she will be struck off the nursing register.

According to the documents, her failings in clinical care “contributed to the deterioration of the baby. That baby subsequently died.”

“The NMC is confident that we have taken the correct actions. We have maintain[ed] regular contact with [Ms Biggs’] employer”

NMC spokesman

She was dismissed for gross misconduct on 14 June at a disciplinary hearing by the trust, which found Ms Biggs failed: to follow several clinical and trust guidelines; to act when tests showed the baby’s heart was slowing down; to escalate issues; and to document actions in the notes.

A review by the trust found Apgar scores – a test carried out on babies shortly after they are born – were “adjusted in retrospect”.

Mr Titcombe told HSJ he wanted an independent external investigation into the NMC’s handling of the case.

He said: “This raises really serious questions about the NMC which is there to protect the public. The constant delays in this case show that the NMC cannot possibly be fulfilling their statutory function. This latest revelation is tragic because a hearing would have taken place last year had the midwives legal representatives not acted to delay them.

“It further raises the need for reform of professional regulation and it is shocking and saddening that more tragedies are happening and lessons have not been learnt from Joshua’s death in 2008.”

An NMC spokesman said: “The NMC is confident that we have taken the correct actions. We carried out a series of risk assessments which included maintaining regular contact with [Ms Biggs’] employer.

“At no point during the process did the employer raise any concerns about her current practice. Having now received a new complaint in relation to Lindsey Biggs, we feel that it is right that we review the actions that we have taken to date. As an organisation that is committed to continuous improvement we have asked an external adviser to help us undertake this review.”

Ms Biggs and Ms Parkinson will next appear in front of the NMC in October.


Readers' comments (6)

  • I find it very strange that the NMC and Morecambe Bay have decided to act in 2016, considering little Joshua Titcombe died needlessly in 2008…... When James Titcombe complained to the CEO NMC after they cleared these Midwives at the previous NMC hearing, this was the response from the CEO:

    “The evidence that we can rely on is governed by our legal framework and decisions made by the High Court. In cases where there have been findings made by another tribunal such as a Coroner’s Court the case is clear. It says that an FtP panel should come to its own conclusions on the issues of evidence before it, regardless of the decisions made by another tribunal”….. “It is for this reason that we did not seek to rely upon the findings of the Coroner”……

    Imagine the pain, the torture, the suffering that little Joshua’s parents have had to endure and all because the NMC decided NOT to use or rely upon the CORONER`S CRUCIAL EVIDENCE that WAS placed in NMC unused material, and the fact that the NMC can cherry pick by unlawfully omitting such evidence. The NMC/ CEO has admitted that they chose not to rely upon the findings of the coroner which was presented to them at the hearing and I believe James Titcombe referred to this evidence when he gave live testimony at the NMC hearing (AS SITED IN THE ABOVE RESPONSE FROM THE NMC/CEO)

    So has it taken another innocent little baby’s death this year to investigate the midwife?......... AND ………..HAS the Morecambe Bay inquiry, led by Dr Bill Kirkup in 2015 prompted the NMC, PSA, Morecambe Bay to ACT now who all refused to act previously and actually protected the perpetrators… This could have been dealt with expeditiously had the NMC accepted the coroner’s report BUT because his ruling wasn’t made at the High Court; the NMC has the unfair advantage of ignoring vital lower court evidence …..

    Mr. Titcombe told HSJ he wanted an independent external investigation into the NMC’s handling of the case……. I would also request this for innocent nurses that have whistleblown to PROTECT the PUBLIC… BUT the NMC has unfairly sanctioned, impaired or struck some of the registrants off….I guarantee that if a midwife whistleblew against the guilty midwives and Morecambe Bay, what would be the likelihood of the Whistleblower being struck off? 100% is the answer.

    BUT the NMC have proved to be guilty by protecting the powerful and the PHSO inaccurate findings, in order to protect the Midwives in order to protect Morecambe Bay in order to protect the CQC findings that the PSA / CHRE allowed….. There is a nasty method in the NMC`s madness ….. Protect the powerful corrupt BY refusing to act on contemporaneous evidence….. Irrespective of it being at a tribunal level…

    Due to the failings of the NMC, DoH, PSA/ CHRE, Morecambe Bay, CQC, PHSO, another innocent baby has died BUT the NMC profess to protect the PUBLIC and they have now brought their own reputation into disrepute ….. How ironic and tragic is this? Awful and my heart goes out to the parents.

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  • For too long the NMC have been able to sit at its own little hearing accepting what evidence they want & refuse that which they have decided they don't want to hear.
    Sadly it seems that it takes deaths of the innocent before anything is done.
    The NMC doesn't even ‘investigate’ cases they simply accept the word of managers or employers. Whistleblowers, as you say Vasanta, have no chance.
    The evidence put forward to the NMC by other tribunals or Coroners Court provides evidence not available to NMC from other avenues, therefore the NMC have no business ignoring the evidence from a Coroners Court regarding a death.
    In ignoring the Coroners evidence the NMC allowed the poor nursing practice of a Registered Midwife to continue. In effect the NMCs refusal to act effectively with due diligence in 2008 has led the death of another child
    This is another example of structural flaws in the NMCs gathering and processing of evidence. The NMC by going down this road leads to life threatening situations for patients and places dedicated competent registers practitioners careers in jeopardy.

    The NMC clearly does not protect the public as their remit states, nor do they protect nurses who report bad practice, poor standards and abuse and is in need of urgent reform.

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  • BUT Ms. Biggs has only been served with an 18 month interim suspension order which means that at any such review hearing the panel may revoke the order, it may confirm the order or it may replace it with an interim condition of practice order….. SO THIS MIDWIFE will not be struck off but will have a review hearing in October 2016 (Where the NMC/ CCC panel may revoke the order completely or replace it with a conditions of practice that will enable her to work as a midwife again)…. BUT if they continue to keep her suspended, she will then be reviewed every 3 months until they revoke the order………. How can this regulator profess to protect the public? When they struck off a nurse for eating a few chips off a patient’s plate……. These disproportionate NMC/ CCCSH outcomes need to be investigated….

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  • I feel so disappointed that there are only 3 comments (2 of them are mine, but this is my 3rd comment) on this story of little Joshua Titcombe and another poor little innocent baby that died at Morecambe Bay (this year in February 2016) allegedly under the same midwife’s care who looked after Joshua Titcombe that the NMC / CCC panel previously did not sanction..

    March 2015 – fee increases from £100 to £120…….February 2013 – fee increases from £76 to £100……….August 2007 – fee increases from £43 to £76

    7/2/14 – Steve ford wrote and article to NT on a fee rise of £20 per year that received 39 COMMENTS.
    1/10/14 -Steve ford wrote and article to NT on a fee rise of £20 per year that received 70 COMMENTS
    5/2/15 – A petition was set up by a passionate nurse that received 113,797 public support.

    What I don’t understand is why NO NMC REGISTRANT has responded (apart from one anonymous) to this NT article about innocent babies dying at Morecambe Bay…. Where is the passion for babies’ lives? Like there is is passion for registrants paying an extra £20 a year???????
    I am absolutely SHOCKED that priorities and morals are all WRONG ….. I couldn’t give a damn about paying an extra £20, £40, £60 a year to the NMC (irrespective of my lack of funds)……. Innocent babies deaths should have received the same (if not more) responses as the £20 NMC fee rise.

    Vasanta Suddock

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  • I think the lack of response indicates a fear in the nursing population regarding any sort of backlash. I agree with you - a baby's life was lost this year when the NMC did not act forcefully enough. They may have followed their own rules and regulations, but the outcome indicates that this was not enough - a complete tragedy ensued for another family.

    If the NMC reviews their practice over this with an external reviewer (which the article above states that they will), then there may be clarity for the Council as well as for us as nurses.

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  • Vasanta, I think most people read articles and comment on issues that are relevant to them. The lack of replies to this article probably reflects that some of us are not midwives and most of us have no connection to Morecambe or this case. Fee rises affect all of us registrants.

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