18 August 2023

Lessons continue to be learned after Lucy Letby murders, says hospital boss

18 August 2023

The director of the hospital where Lucy Letby murdered seven babies and attempted to kill six more has said “lessons continue to be learned” following her conviction.

The nurse carried out the attacks at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit in 2015 and 2016.

Speaking outside the hospital on Friday, medical director Dr Nigel Scawn said: “I speak for the whole trust when I say how deeply saddened and appalled we are at Lucy Letby’s crimes.

“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.

“We are grateful for the co-operation of our staff, especially those that have maintained the utmost professionalism while giving evidence in this trial.”

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

He added: “I want to provide reassurance that every patient who accesses our services can have confidence in the care they will receive.

“And, most importantly, our thoughts are with all the families and loved ones at this very difficult time.”

Dr Scawn walked away without answering as a journalist asked him: “Why did hospital managers try to stop Lucy Letby from being investigated?”

Two babies died on the unit in 2013 and there were three deaths in 2014.

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.

During this period, the trust chief executive was Tony Chambers and the medical director was Ian Harvey.

Mr Harvey 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.

Mr Chambers served six years in his post before he resigned in September 2018.

He said he made the decision to “allow the trust to focus on its future” as the police investigation continued.

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, the 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.

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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