Letby inquiry to investigate issues from ‘ward to boardroom’
Lady Justice Thirlwall, who will lead the Letby inquiry, wants NHS staff to complete an anonymous survey and asks managers to consider CCTV in neonatal wards
The senior judge leading the inquiry into the crimes of Lucy Letby has said she is committed to investigating issues ‘from the ward to the boardroom’ insisting ‘NHS culture must change now’.
Survey about NHS culture will be used to inform inquiry
Announcing the inquiry’s programme of work on 22 November, Lady Justice Thirlwall urged all nurses and managers working in NHS neonatal units across the England to complete an anonymous survey on NHS culture to aid the inquiry, including whether trusts should consider CCTV in neonatal wards.
The Court of Appeal judge is tasked with examining events at the Countess of Chester Hospital leading up to the murders and attempted murders that Letby carried out while employed as a neonatal nurse and how she was able to repeatedly kill and harm babies.
The inquiry will also consider the experience of babies and their parents named in the indictment, the conduct of clinical and non-clinical staff and the structures of raising concerns, and the effectiveness of governance and external regulation including by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Public hearings planned for autumn 2024
Speaking in her first public address since the inquiry was launched, Lady Thirlwall said: ‘What happened to these babies and their families is indescribable. I know that many professionals – clinical and otherwise – are already implementing changes identified as necessary before this inquiry began. I expect to learn whether these changes are effective in preventing harm.’
She also set out a timeline ahead of the inquiry’s first public hearings, which are currently planned for autumn 2024 and will take place in Chester.
As well as the survey for neonatal nurses, a separate questionnaire has been sent to every hospital in England that has a neonatal unit. This is to be completed by the medical director and a senior non-clinical manager at each hospital and asks whether there is CCTV on neonatal units and, if not, whether it has been contemplated. Expert witnesses will also be called to give evidence, details of which will be shared in due course.
Inquiry will examine recommendations from the Beverley Allitt inquiry
Lady Thirlwall also said that she will be reflecting on previous cases and their subsequent inquiries, such as the case of former nurse Beverley Allitt who was convicted of killing babies in the 1990s.
She added: ‘I want to know what recommendations were made in all these inquires. I want to know whether they were implemented, what difference did they make, where does accountability lie for errors that are made?
‘The parents of the babies who were murdered or suffered injuries, some with life-long effects, live with the consequences every day. On top of their grievous loss, they endured years of uncertainty about what had caused death or injury. For some, uncertainty remains.
‘They have all made it plain to me that they want to do all they can to make sure no one else suffers as they do.’
Letby is set to be retried on one charge of attempted murder of a baby girl. She is currently in the process of appealing her convictions.
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