Department of Health want less ‘independent’ maternity review chair, says Hunt

Department of Health want less ‘independent’ maternity review chair, says Hunt
‘We plead with Sajid, as a father, to prevent the need for us to fight during our darkest moments’, say parents

The former helath secretary Jeremy Hunt has claimed the government snubbed bereaved families’ requests for Donna Ockenden to chair a review into maternity services in Nottingham as she is “too independent”.

Hundreds of families involved in the Nottingham maternity scandal review have called for Ms Ockenden, chair of the Shrewsbury maternity scandal inquiry, to take over the investigation.

NHS England had attempted to appoint a former healthcare leader, Julie Dent to chair the review. However, following pressure from families not to accept, Ms Dent announced shortly after she would be declining the role.

Following the families’ calls for Ms Ockenden, Mr Hunt, chair of the government’s health committee, said on Wednesday: “I can’t see any other barriers to appointing her but sounds like she still won’t be. For some reason the Department of Health appears to think she is too independent – which is of course precisely why Nottingham families do have confidence in her. It feels like another own goal.”

Families involved in the Nottingham maternity review, which will now cover almost 600 cases, have said they’ve been left in limbo by NHS England after if informed them of an interim report which has been completed by the review team.

This follows several letters from families to health secretary Sajid Javid raising concerns over the review and calls for it to be overhauled.

Ms Ockenden has previously told families she would be happy to chair the review if she was asked.

Speaking with The Independent, a couple whose son died under the care of Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trist said: “The key to successful long term change is developing a relationship with harmed families, built on trust, sensitivity and understanding. The current review does not command this. The relationship is untenable.”

The couple, Emmie and Ryan, added: “When you have been harmed, suffered loss and experienced the deepest of traumas, handing over your trust, is everything you have left. Donna Ockenden comes with the trust of hundreds of families. This is invaluable.

“We plead with Sajid, as a father, to prevent the need for us to fight during our darkest moments, but to form a family centred partnership, which can deliver change and avoid the suffering of others. It is this support and understanding, which for us and so many whose children are dead, may allow us the small comfort of peace to grieve.”

They said throughout the inquest into their son’s death they have experienced “a devastating lack of transparency and basic respect from the trust. We have often felt the conduct to be inhumane.”

The Department for Health and Social Care was approached for comment.

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