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Failure to listen on maternity care issues a ‘brick wall’ for affected families

Nick Carver OBE will address families who have been the victims of failings in maternity care at a meeting on Monday.

The head of an NHS Trust that is under review over its maternity care has said its failure to listen to affected families has been a “brick wall” that has caused more pain.

Nick Carver, hair of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), will “commit to a new honest and transparent relationship” with families who were the victims of care failings at the Trust’s annual public meeting (APM) on Monday.

The Trust’s maternity care is currently being scrutinised in a review led by Donna Ockenden, with thousands of families coming forward to share concerns.

Some families, including those whose children died due to failings in their care by NUH, demanded a public apology from the Trust at a closed meeting in May, which NUH committed to delivering at its APM.

But the Trust said on Tuesday that Mr Carver will now instead “commit to working collaboratively to plan for an apology on behalf of the board that the families recognise as meaningful” in Monday’s meeting, held at Nottingham Trent University.

Mr Carver said: “For too long we have failed to listen to women and families who have been affected by failings in our maternity services. This ‘brick wall’ has caused additional pain, and this must change.

“Families should not have to fight to get the answers they deserve and we are committed to gaining their trust, and the trust of all our communities by listening and engaging with them.

“Some families, who we have had the chance to meet have told us they want a meaningful apology that they recognise as meeting their needs, including accountability and a change in the culture.

“We will work with them and other families to make that happen.

“We recognise there will be families who haven’t had the chance to come forward yet and we will want their views on how we go about putting things right for them too.

“We agree with the families when they tell us that engagement with them will help us make sustainable improvements to our maternity services.”

Ms Ockenden, who along with a team of senior clinicians began her review in September 2022, said in May that more than 1,250 families and 650 staff had contacted the review to express concerns about the Trust’s care practices.

Ms Ockenden has also called for women from ethnic minority backgrounds to come forward to ensure a wider range of maternity care experiences are heard (Jacob King/PA)
Ms Ockenden has also called for women from ethnic minority backgrounds to come forward to ensure a wider range of maternity care experiences are heard (Jacob King/PA)

However, she has previously called for more people to contact the review, stressing that it was “vital” that women from a range of ethnic and social backgrounds came forward.

Clinical reviews began in April but no date has been provided for when the final report will be released.

Ms Ockenden, who has previously led a similar review into maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, has already shared key findings with NUH to ensure mistakes are avoided.

Ahead of the APM, where she will also speak, she said: “Today is the start of a journey for Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.

“There needs to be rebuilding of the Trust between its maternity services, families who use those services and the many families who we know have been avoidably harmed when using the Trust’s maternity services.

“The Trust has made a commitment today to walk a new path, listening to families and acting upon what they are told.

“The journey can’t be completed overnight. It is a long journey and needs to happen one step at a time.

“As Chair of the Independent Review into Maternity Services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, I want to reiterate what a privilege it is for my team and I to be trusted by so many hundreds of local families.

“My promise today is the same promise I made on the first day of the review in September 2022: as an independent review team we will do absolutely everything we can to ensure that every voice is heard, that no one is left behind and not heard, and finally that what families tell us will, without a doubt, contribute to making maternity services safer and more inclusive for all families in Nottinghamshire.”

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