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Key report on maternity failings at Morecambe Bay expected

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An independent review into the events surrounding the death of a number of mothers and newborn babies at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria is due to report its findings today.

The Morecambe Bay Investigation, chaired by senior public heath clinician Dr Bill Kirkup, will report to the health secretary at midday.

The investigation was commissioned by the Department of Health in September 2013 to look into the safety of maternity and neonatal services at University Hospitals Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Furness General.

A series of deaths occurred in the maternity and neonatal services unit at Furness between January 2004 and June 2013, including Alex Brady, Elleanor Bennett and Joshua Titcombe. They became the focus of a long-term campaign by those affected, including Joshua’s father James Titcombe.

Several internal reviews have previously taken place into the issue, but they did not give relatives confidence that all of the facts have been heard and all of the underlying issues had been resolved.

The independent investigation has focused on the actions, systems and processes of the Morecambe Bay trust as well as the actions of regulators and commissioners. It also heard from those involved and their relatives and clinicians, managers and regulators.

Under the investigation’s terms of reference, Dr Kirup and his panel were asked to make findings on the “adequacy of the actions taken at the time by the trust to mitigate concerns over safety” and its ability to discharge its duties in delivering maternity services.

In addition, they were to make recommendations on the lessons to be learned for both the trust and the wider NHS to secure the delivery of high quality care.

The publication of its findings have been delayed twice before, having originally been scheduled for last July.

In September last year, it emerged more than 200 deaths of mothers and babies at the trust had been investigated, with over 50 cases identified for detailed analysis.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council is currently deciding whether eight midwives who formerly worked for the foundation trust should face disciplinary action.

Dr Kirup has served on a number of previous independent investigation panels including those into Oxford paediatric cardiac surgery unit and Jimmy Savile’s involvement with Broadmoor Hospital.

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