Detectives are investigating a series of baby deaths at a hospital in the North West, after questions remained unanswered about the cause of mortality following an independent review.
Up to 15 baby deaths at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust are due to be examined by Cheshire police, along with six other non-fatal collapses.
“Approaching the police is not something we have undertaken lightly”
The investigation has been launched after the trust contacted Cheshire police because of a higher number of baby deaths than would normally be expected in its neonatal services between June 2015 and June 2016.
In a statement published today, the trust confirmed that it had “requested the input” of the police.
It added that in February it had published the findings of an independent clinical review into neonatal services at the hospital, which was carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
This review had made 24 recommendations and included a case note check by an independent neonatologist, who was “unable to answer all of the questions regarding the cause of death for a number of babies”.
The statement said: “The trust and its doctors have continuing concerns about the unexplained deaths and are very keen to understand that everything possible has been done to help determine the causes of death in our neonatal unit between June 2015 and June 2016.
“As a hospital, we have taken the clinical review as far as we can. We have now asked for the input of Cheshire police to seek assurances that enable us to rule out unnatural causes of death,” it said.
“We are committed to carrying out the investigation as quickly as possible”
The trust added that its neonatal unit would remain open to women over 32 weeks into their pregnancy and that it was “confident the unit is safe to continue in its current form”.
Countess of Chester Hospital highlighted that its focus at the present time was on supporting its staff and patients currently receiving care at the hospital.
The trust’s medical director, Mr Ian Harvey, added: “We are deeply sorry for the further distress and heartache this will cause. Throughout this we have never lost sight of the families left bereaved by the loss of their baby, and they will continue to be our main concern.
“At every point where the hospital has been able to share information with families and the public, we have done so. Approaching the police is not something we have undertaken lightly,” he said.
“This is to ensure we have been completely thorough in understanding what has happened here and to get the answers we and the families so desperately want,” said Mr Harvey.
Police investigating 15 baby deaths at Cheshire hospital
Source: Dennis Turner
In a separate statement, detective chief superintendent Nigel Wenham said: “In May 2017, the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust contacted Cheshire constabulary regarding neonatal services at the hospital.
“As a result, Cheshire Constabulary has launched an investigation, which will focus on the deaths of eight babies that occurred between that period where medical practitioners have expressed concern,” he said.
“In addition, the investigation will also conduct a review of a further seven baby deaths and six non-fatal collapses during the same period,” said Mr Wenham.
He added: “We recognise that this investigation will have a significant impact on all of the families involved, staff and patients at the hospital and the public.
“Parents of the babies are being updated on the investigation and will be supported throughout the process by specially trained officers,” he said. “We are committed to carrying out the investigation as quickly as possible. The investigation is in its very early stages.”