Hospital at the centre of baby deaths scandal given £1.2million bonus

Revealed: NHS gave hospital at the centre of a baby deaths scandal a £1.2million bonus for maternity care

  • East Kent Hospitals was given money by the NHS in 2018 after hitting ten targets 
  • A major independent review has been launched after at least 15 babies died
  • Staff were suspected of covering up deaths by not referring cases to coroners

The hospital at the centre of a baby deaths scandal was awarded a £1.2million bonus for apparently providing safe maternity care, documents show.

East Kent Hospitals was given the money by the NHS in 2018 after hitting ten targets including ensuring doctors were available out-of-hours, investigating stillbirths and providing enhanced training.

The NHS trust is now the subject of a major independent review which was launched by health officials this year after at least 15 babies died due to potentially avoidable errors.

East Kent Hospitals, at the centre of a baby deaths scandal, was awarded a £1.2million bonus by the NHS for apparently providing safe maternity care, documents show

Earlier this week the Mail revealed how staff at the hospital were suspected of covering up their deaths by not referring suspicious cases to coroners.

Bereaved families described the bonus as ‘obscene’ and ‘immoral’. 

They said it was difficult to comprehend when they felt so ‘wronged’.

Other experts said it exposed the ‘dysfunctionality’ of the NHS’s regulation system if a hospital with severe failings could be rewarded for good work.

The cash was paid by NHS Resolution, the body of the health service which oversees clinical negligence claims.

Two years ago the organisation launched a maternity incentive scheme to encourage trusts to improve their care of pregnant women and newborns.

In order to receive the payment, hospitals needed to hit ten safety targets which range from investigating deaths to ensuring experienced doctors are on hand 24/7.

The NHS trust is now the subject of a major independent review which was launched by health officials this year after at least 15 babies died due to potentially avoidable errors

Other standards include midwives being trained to monitor a foetus’s heart rate.

Yet a number of the baby deaths at the trust are believed to have been caused by failings in these very areas – particularly in monitoring heart rates and ensuring doctors are available.

The year before the bonus was awarded, a baby called Harry Richford died in what a coroner later described in ‘wholly avoidable’ circumstances, partly brought about at the hands of a locum doctor who hadn’t been properly assessed.

Harry’s death in November 2017, and the inquest in January this year, prompted other families to come forward and the NHS launched a major independent review into safety.

The trust shamelessly tried to claim the bonus again last year – even though the maternity unit was under investigation – but its bid was thrown out after bereaved families intervened.

NHS Resolution said it’s now reviewing the £1.2million payment made in 2018 which could lead to it being paid back.

Derek Richford, Harry’s grandfather, described the trust’s actions in claiming the bonus as ‘immoral’ and ‘obscene’.

Becca Janes, whose daughter Hallie-Rae died at the trust’s Ashford hospital in 2017, said: ‘If they’ve failed women, and they’re continuing to do so, they don’t deserve that money.’

Shelley Russell, whose baby Tallulah-Rai was delivered stillborn at the same hospital in January last year, said: ‘A bonus sounds like a reward when they have wronged so many families.’

The hospital was given the money in 2018 after hitting ten targets including ensuring doctors were available out-of-hours, investigating stillbirths and providing enhanced training

Mr Richford believes the trust would have been paid the bonus again last year had he not intervened by alerting NHS Resolution to the serious failings.

The NHS launched a major independent inquiry into East Kent Hospitals’ maternity services in February this year after other families came forward.

Maureen Treadwell, from the Birth Trauma Association which supports women, said: ‘Dysfunctionality on this scale cannot be blamed on individual trusts – it suggests failure from the very top of the NHS.’

A spokesman for NHS Resolution said it is reviewing East Kent Hospitals’ first submission to the maternity incentive scheme.

And a spokesman for East Kent Hospitals said in year one of the scheme, the trust’s board ‘were assured that they could demonstrate compliance against the ten specific actions’.

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