On Friday 27 January 2023, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) were fined £800,000 following the criminal prosecution brought by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), for their series of failures to provide safe care to both Wynter and Sarah Andrews. The failures caused avoidable harm, which tragically resulted in Wynter’s death at 23 minutes of age on 15 September 2019. A CQC prosecution of this nature is extremely unusual and a first for the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
The fine of £800,000 appears to be the largest amount that a Trust has been sentenced to for the failings in their maternity services to date. The level of fine has to meet the objectives of punishment and deterrence. During sentencing, District Judge Grace Leong commented that; “The court has to strike a delicate balance. On the one hand, a significant financial penalty has to be fixed at such a level as to mark the seriousness of these offences. On the other hand, the court cannot ignore the negative impact that the fine will have upon services to patients at a time when the Trust is facing unprecedented challenges, both in terms of its workload and staffing levels to say nothing of the financial pressures.”
Is a prosecution and fine the most appropriate penalty? No financial penalty will bring Wynter back. Whilst a fine may not be the ideal solution, this is outside of the family’s control and is the only sentence that is available to the CQC and the Courts. I believe that the prosecution had to happen to highlight the failings within the maternity services at the Trust.
During their last inspection of the Trust’s maternity services in 2022, the CQC found that the services were still inadequate and they were given the lowest rating that the CQC are able to give. This demonstrated that despite the spotlight on the maternity services at the Trust, the necessary improvements had still not been made. I hope that this prosecution and level of fine will now be the catalyst for change within the Trust’s maternity services, and that it ensures that lessons are learnt and staff are appropriately trained, making it safer for all future families.
Wynter’s case is heart breaking and one that should not have happened. I attended the hearing with Wynter’s parents, Sarah and Gary, to offer some moral support. I was in awe of their strength and the way in which they handled themselves as the Judge and Barristers for the CQC and the Trust, went through the events that led up to Wynter’s death once again.
Investigations against the Trust for inadequate maternity care continue, civil claims are being brought by many families and Donna Ockenden and her team are undertaking an independent review. As part of the review, I understand that over 900 families have come forward so far with their concerns about the care that they received at the Trust.
There have been repeated failings by the Trust’s maternity services for a number of years now. This prosecution and substantial fine are significant not just to Wynter’s family, but to all those families before and after Wynter who have also suffered loss of their babies and life changing injuries as a result of failures on the part of the Trust.
The new Chief Executive, Anthony May appears committed to make changes and in 2022, issued an apology on behalf of the Trust to all families affected by the poor care within their maternity services. The Trust pleaded guilty to the offences in Wynter’s case, with Anthony May saying that they “accepted responsibility for the findings of the CQC and today we accept, in full, the sentence of the court.” He added that “whilst words will never be enough, I can assure our communities that staff across NUH are committed to providing good quality care every day and we are working hard to make the necessary improvements, including engaging fully and openly with Donna Ockenden and her team on the ongoing independent review into our maternity services.”
I sincerely hope that meaningful change now happens and swiftly, to prevent any more families having to go through the same heart break of not bringing their baby home.
We act for so many families who have suffered as a result of poor maternity care. Babies have died or been brain damaged, parents have suffered psychological trauma and mothers have suffered obstetric injury
We encourage anyone who has been affected by care received from Nottingham University Hospital or any other Hospital Trust to contact us so that we can begin to support you too.