18 August 2023

Ex-hospital boss says he will co-operate ‘fully’ with Letby independent inquiry

18 August 2023

The former chief executive of the hospital where Lucy Letby worked has said he will co-operate fully with an independent inquiry into the case.

The 33-year-old nurse was found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit in 2015 and 2016.

During this period, the trust chief executive was Tony Chambers, who served six years in his post before he resigned in September 2018.

In a statement following the verdicts, Mr Chambers said: “As chief executive, my focus was on the safety of the baby unit and the wellbeing of patients and staff. I was open and inclusive as I responded to information and guidance.”

He said the best place for “lessons to be learnt” would be the independent inquiry, which has been ordered by the Government to investigate the circumstances behind the crimes.

Mr Chambers added: “I will co-operate fully and openly with the independent inquiry which has now been ordered by the Government.”

Speaking outside the hospital on Friday, the current medical director Dr Nigel Scawn did not answer when asked by a journalist: “Why did hospital managers try to stop Lucy Letby from being investigated?”

Dr Scawn said: “We are extremely sorry that these crimes were committed at our hospital and our thoughts continue to be with all the families and loved ones of the babies who came to harm or died. We cannot begin to understand what they have been through.

“This case has had a profound impact on our patients and our local community and also our staff, who come to work every day determined to provide safe and high quality care for all of our patients.

“Our staff are devastated by what has happened and we are committed to ensuring that lessons continue to be learned.”

He said “significant changes” have been made to services since Letby worked at the hospital.

At the time she carried out the attacks, the hospital’s medical director was Ian Harvey.

He retired in August 2018 – a month after Letby was first arrested – after he reportedly notified Mr Chambers at the start of that year of his intention to retire.

He had held other managerial roles within the trust and was medical director for six years.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Harvey said: “At this time my thoughts are with the babies whose treatment has been the focus of the trial and with their parents and relatives who have been through something unimaginable, and I am sorry for all their suffering.

“As medical director I was determined to keep the baby unit safe and support our staff. I wanted the reviews and investigations carried out so that we could tell the parents what had happened to their children.

“An inquiry has been announced and I will help with it in whatever way I can.”

Former director of nursing Alison Kelly left the Countess of Chester in 2021 and works in a similar position at the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Salford Royal Hospital and Royal Oldham Hospital.

At the Countess of Chester in 2015 and 2016, there was a significant rise in the number of babies who suffered serious and unexpected collapses in the neonatal unit.

Letby’s presence when collapses took place was first mentioned to senior management by the unit’s head consultant in late June 2015.

Concerns among some consultants about the defendant increased and were voiced to hospital bosses when more unexplained and unusual collapses followed, Manchester Crown Court heard.

But Letby was not removed from the unit until after the deaths of two triplet boys and the collapse of another baby boy on three successive days in June 2016.

Letby was confined to clerical work and in September 2016 registered a grievance procedure.

It emerged during legal argument in the trial – in the absence of the jury – that the grievance procedure was resolved in Letby’s favour in December 2016.

Letby was due to return to the neonatal unit in March 2017, but the move did not take place as soon afterwards, police were contacted by the hospital trust.

No babies died between when Letby was removed from the unit in July 2016 and when police were called in by the hospital in May 2017.

She was suspended on full pay from the moment she was arrested in July 2018.

It is understood she was sacked when she was charged in November 2020.

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