Cover Up?

We felt that we were not getting the full truth from a very early stage. Even in the meeting we had on March 14th 2018 the chair of the meeting who was from the Corporate Governance department said  “I can absolutely tell you that this has not been covered up I promise you that.”. Once you have read the facts below, you can make up your own mind.

The following facts are why we firmly believe there are serious questions to be answered.

RCA Meeting - In our recorded, three and a half hour meeting The Trust told us unequivocally that the locum's CV had been signed off by a consultant before he started work. It later transpired that it had not been signed off at all.  This means that the Trust's 4 month long investigation  had seemingly failed to identify that the locum had been working without any sign off.   The very fact that there was no sign off via email as claimed, led us to believe that there was no such system, otherwise the administrator in Ashford would not have recruited the locum as she would not have had the correct sign off authorisation.  

Refusal to refer Harry's death to the coroner - We asked on numerous occasions and were told unequivocally that there was no need to inform the coroner as the cause of death, HIE was known, we have this in writing and on tape and it was repeated in the RCA report, signed off at board level. Our contention that the HIE was caused 7 days earlier was ignored. By late August 2018 the Senior Coroner for Kent had ruled that Harry's case should have been notified earlier and that from that date ALL baby deaths must be reported by this Trust. It was also noted that the coroner had said that failure to report Harry's death could be viewed as obstructing the coroner. By October 2019 the coroner ruled that Harry's inquest was to be an Article 2 inquest, Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Right to life, the highest form of inquest available.

You will see from the document here that we notified the coroner on March 15th 2018 at 9.55 in the morning.  The Trust had said they would finally refer in the meeting held the previous day but we had no faith that they would.  As it happened, we were right, the Trust took a further 5 weeks and 3 days to do so and only then because we chased the Medical Director twice.

Failure to keep the placenta - The placenta was not kept which was against Trust guidelines and those of the Royal College of Pathologists. The Root Cause Analysis Investigation (RCA) told us that they only kept placenta when an infection is suspected and in Harry's case it was not.  However, in the transfer document from QEQM to WHH it says "Suspected Sepsis".  If this weren't enough, at our March 14th meeting we were told that since Harry's death they had changed policy and that they had purchased pots in which to put placenta and made arrangements with WHH where the pathology would be carried out.  Surely this had to mean that before this time, no placenta were kept?  Finally, the MBRRACE-UK report filled out by the Trust states that the Placenta was kept and used for histology.  The coroner’s expert witness said - "In this case examination of the placenta would have been extremely helpful in identifying any other contributing factors to Harry’s condition at birth."

Child Death Notification form - This is a mandatory form filled out for all child deaths from 1st breath to 18 years.  The Trust filled this form out on November 10th to say that Harry's death was "expected" when of course to us and, as it turned out, the coroner, it was not at all.  We challenged this and were told that as life support was to be removed the death was expected 24 hours before.  Again, we challenged this and said that it ignored the cause of the brain damage altogether, they still stood by their decision.  The ticked "expected" box was accompanied by a benign statement that would attract no attention up the line, you can see the statement here.  Harry's own hospital notes from November 3rd said that it was an "unexpected outcome".   It wasn't until the last week in August 2019 when we saw the coroners own expert witness report that said "It was not acceptable for the treating team at William Harvey Hospital to conclude that the death was ‘expected’. The death was explained by the presence of severe hypoxic ischaemic brain injury, however the aetiology of the hypoxia ischemia required appropriate consideration and investigation." It would be fascinating to see all Child Death Notification Form's in all hospitals, how do they compare with what the parents would say?

RCA Investigation - The RCA was carried out by Dr Clare Redfearn the consultant in charge of the maternity department who was effectively investigating her own team, the consultants and doctors that she worked with and potentially the policies and procedures she had herself instigated. The neonatal side of the investigation was carried out by Dr Sean Mun the consultant who looked after Harry at WHH, wrote his death certificate, arranged the child death notification form and who's department filled out the MBRRACE-UK report.  All of this totally against NHS England guidelines (here) which state that investigations should not be carried out by anyone treating the patient or working with anyone treating the patient, see extract at the base of this page from the document. We raised this on numerous occasions with the Trust but were told it was as independent as it could be and that it was overseen by senior executives.

RCA Inaccuracy -
In the RCA it clearly states in black and white that the locum doctor had 2 years’ experience as a registrar. It later became apparent that the locum
doctor had only been a registrar for 9 months.  No one could identify where the 2 years had come from. We even had a copy of his CV and he didn't
even claim this himself.  On examination, the locum doctor's CV showed clearly that the maximum time he could possibly have been a registrar was 1 year.  This information is there in black and white if you just work dates back from details given. Are we to believe that no one investigating could read a CV we wondered?

The RCA also states that the resuscitation of Harry was to NLS guidelines,"The descriptions and steps taken were appropriate as per NLS guidelines." it clearly wasn't and this was verified by various witnesses at inquest but especially the coroners own expert witness.  This proved to us that either the investigation was not carried out properly or they were seemingly covering up what they found.  Incompetent or cover-up?  There are only 2 choices in our minds.

RCA Independent scrutiny - The RCA was sent off to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust by way of scrutiny before it was published.  This, we were told proved their independence and that they were keen to show us that the RCA had been carried out to the highest standard.  However, the external scrutineer was not sent any medical notes or CTG scans so could only look at the report itself but not verify any of it.  She made a point of saying that she was surprised that no criticism was levelled at the on-call consultant.  A comment regarding the on-call consultant was later rather crassly squeezed in at 1a on the RCA before final publication. Why, we ask, was one of their senior colleagues not singled out for obvious failings before being prompted?  We learnt much later that the exact same criticisms of how incidents were investigated and consultants not criticised were levelled by RCOG in their 2015 audit.  The consultant concerned was later made an IP at Harry's inquest due to the damning comments of the coroner’s own witnesses and the evidence against her and the GMC are formally investigating her fitness to practise. 

MBRRACE-UK Report - This is a statutory report that is filled out for all babies who die or that sustain brain damage.  It is run by the Nuffield Trust at Oxford University for the government with the express aim of analysing baby death data and in so doing, reducing baby deaths in the UK.  At the time of Harry's death, the UK was the 3rd worst in Europe for baby deaths.  We asked to see Harry's report as a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. We were told that this was not a FOI issue as the report was in Harry's clinical records, the request was passed to the clinical records department. This in itself was odd as we already had Harry's notes and it wasn't in there?  The clinical records department emailed us a very poor copy of a report but it was the Each Baby Counts report for the RCOG.  We asked again and were told they didn't have it.  By this time, we were in touch with MBRRACE-UK who told us that the hospital did have it and to ask again.  We were told "no" yet again.  Eventually we got the report from MBRRACE-UK direct under a FOI request.  When we got it, we found it was full of really important errors.  Such things as the placental histology was used to determine the cause of death was polar opposite to the truth, it hadn't been kept at all.  The date of onset of labour and care was said to be November 1st at 00:00 it wasn't, it was over 5 hours earlier.  It said that the case had been discussed with the coroner, it hadn't until we did it. Rotational forceps were attempted, they weren't.  They said that the Apgar score at 1 minute and 5 minutes was not available, they were in Harry's notes!  The final part, were there any delivery complications was answered with "None". We wrote to the Medical Director to ask where the information comes from for the MBRRACE report and we were told the patients notes. Clearly in Harry's case they were not, so where did this false information come from we wonder?

In addition, the fact that the MBRRACE-UK report was by admission of the Trusts own FOI department part of Harry's notes, why was it withheld from the family in clear breach of Duty of Candour? 

The coroner ruled that there were a number or important errors in Harry's MBRRACE report and that all MBRRACE reports should be checked for accuracy.  As at June 2020 The Trust have not corrected Harry's report. We have to ask ourselves why?

Post-mortem Bloods - When Harry's body was sent to St Thomas' for his post-mortem he was accompanied by a letter to give the details of his birth in order to help the pathologist try to find the cause of death.  Harry's cord blood results were sent off but the bloods taken less than 60 minutes later in SCBU were not sent at all.  The cord bloods showed a hypoxic issue but one that was recoverable, the results of the SCBU bloods however showed that a massive hypoxic insult had taken place between birth and SCBU.  

Reporting to CCG - Any serious incident has to be reported to the local Clinical Commissioning Group within 72 hours, this is part of the governance contract the Trust has with the NHS. Harry's death was not reported until November 10th after he died.  We queried this and were told that it wasn't considered a serious incident until he died.....................we found this surprising, hurtful and a real demonstration of the toxic culture that was present at that time. How can a perfectly normal baby receive the severest brain damage where an immediate RCA is raised and yet it was not considered a serious incident until he died?

Reporting to NHSR - Harry's death had to be reported to NHS Resolution within 30 days of the incident in order to be compliant with the Trusts NHS contract.  The purpose of this is to ensure that any baby death or one that sustains brain damage is given swift support and the Trust are supported with investigations.  In cases of brain damage where the Trust is culpable, early funds can be arranged for the family too.  This tries to ensure early involvement in settlement and reduce solicitors’ costs too.  Harry's case was not reported until March 20th, a week after the RCA meeting we had with them which, for them, went very badly wrong.  It was reported 108 days past the 30-day deadline.  https://resolution.nhs.uk/services/claims-management/clinical-schemes/clinical-negligence-scheme-for-trusts/early-notification-scheme/  

During 2017 the Trust claimed 10/10 for maternity services based on 10 key self-audited criteria including the one above regarding reporting to NHSR, they received a rebate of circa £1 million for this claim. In 2018 they did the same but following investigation it was then found to be untrue and the claim was rejected by NHSR.

Senior Response - In a letter from the CEO on January 30th  2019 in response to our complaint Susan Acott says "........during the RCA meeting, it was reiterated that at the time of Harry's death, given the cause of his death was known, it was felt Harry's case did not require referral to the Coroner.  However it was accepted that as you still had concerns a referral to the coroner was undertaken"  It later transpired at Harry's inquest in a statement by the Medical Director that in a meeting with the senior coroner for Kent over 5 months BEFORE this letter, they were told that Harry's death should have been referred and that not doing so could be seen as obstructing the coroner.   So why in January 2019 was the CEO still saying that the eventual referral was made because we still had concerns rather than because they were duty bound to do so? (We would point out that their referral was made 5 weeks and 3 days after they agreed to do it following pressure from the family and only after we chased the MD twice).

Previous History - This Trust had a lot of previous history of issues in maternity, this demonstrated by CCG reports in 2014 and the RCOG report from 2015, additionally, we were able to collate information from board reports that showed they continued to have issues as shown here. When we asked the CEO about the detail in the board reports, this detail stopped being published in their reports preferring to only now show a number of serious incidents rather than the detail.  So, despite the Trust reporting numerous serious incidents in maternity Harry's RCA was not carried out in the required detail, did not discover the root cause at all and outside scrutiny from the coroner, CQC and CDOP was actively avoided.

We can all accept that mistakes happen but any right-minded person looking at the evidence above would surely have to conclude that there was a severe level of incompetence at every stage or an orchestrated attempt to avoid external scrutiny, and, in so doing, has avoided valuable learning from Harry's and, we suspect many previous cases let alone the huge delays and increased suffering endured by our family as a result.