Nottingham NHS Trust head: Maternity improvements to be made ‘whatever the cost’

The head of an NHS trust under review for maternity care failings has said improvements will be made “whatever the cost, whatever it takes”.

Anthony May OBE, chief executive of the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUHT), said positive steps had already been taken to improve maternity care but more work was needed to restore trust.

NUHT is currently the subject of an independent review investigating hundreds of cases of failings in maternity care that led to the deaths and harm of babies and mothers.

Friday marks the first anniversary of the review, led by Donna Ockenden, with families affected calling for those involved in the scandal to be held to account.

Mr May said: “Our trust, our hospitals, are a landmark in these communities and we absolutely have to find a way and the capacity to improve if we’re going to maintain the trust and confidence of local people.

“So whatever the cost, whatever it takes, we must respond to the review.

“We must continue to improve because people depend upon us and what we do here, and for them the services have got to be good, and the experience has to be good.”

Friday also marks one year since Mr May began his current role.

In that time, he has met staff and families and regularly meets Ms Ockenden, who is leading a multi-disciplinary team of medical experts to analyse more than 1,700 cases of suspected failings.

The meetings with Ms Ockenden have already informed changes including improved translation services, accessibility and cultural sensitivity, as part of continuous feedback and learning.

The Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, managed by NUHT (Callum Parke/PA)
The Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, managed by NUHT (Callum Parke/PA)

Mr May described the review – expected to be the biggest maternity investigation in NHS history – as “crucially important to the future of the trust”, which runs three sites in Nottingham.

When asked what he would say to expectant mothers due to give birth in the near future, Mr May said: “I would say to women and families, we are improving, we can see that objectively we’re improving, whether it’s triage, recruitment, compliance with guidelines, foetal heart rate monitoring, there is a whole range of areas where we know we’re getting better.

“Equally importantly, friends and families are telling us through the surveys that we do that things are getting better, and their experience is better.

“Equally, I would say to anybody who’s worried about our services, maternity or other services, then tell us.

“If it’s in maternity, tell your midwife, if it’s anywhere else in the trust, find a way of telling your clinician so that we can help and fix the problem.”

Mr May’s comments come as the Nottingham Families Maternity Group said on Friday that they “expect action” to ensure people are held accountable for care failings.

They have called on Nottinghamshire Police to investigate whether laws have been broken and said that a culture change is needed at the trust, which they believe has previously been “rewarding” unsafe care.

Mr May said hearing the stories of families had been “humbling and informative” and that changing the culture of the trust was a priority.

He said: “I’ve spent most of my time on culture and leadership in the organisation.

“I think we’re improving, families and friends say we’re improving and the data starts to bear that out as well.

“But unless we get the culture right, and people feel they’re able to work, supported to work in an open and transparent environment, we won’t continue to improve.

“So for me, making the environment and the circumstances for our services right is absolutely paramount.

“The relationship that we’re trying to build with families through transparency and taking accountability and saying we’re sorry is critical for the future of the trust and for the future of the review.”

NUHT has also been reinspected by the Care Quality Commission, with the trust last being graded as requiring improvement.

The latest report will be published later in September.