Former head of nursing says she ‘lacked information’ to remove Letby

Responding to claims during trial, Karen Rees says she was not given enough information to justify removing Letby from neonatal unit earlier
Lucy Letby in a picture taken from an ‘open’ Facebook page

Responding to claims during trial, Karen Rees says she was not given enough information to justify removing Letby from neonatal unit earlier

Lucy Letby in a picture taken from an ‘open’ Facebook page
Lucy Letby Picture: Shutterstock

A former nursing chief has said she was not given enough information to be able to remove Lucy Letby from a neonatal unit, after it was claimed by a hospital consultant that she failed to do so after being informed of concerns.

Karen Rees was the head of nursing at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s urgent care division before she retired in March 2018.

The hospital’s neonatal unit head consultant, Stephen Brearey, told Manchester Crown Court during Letby's trial that he had informed Ms Rees that he and his colleagues were ‘not happy’ with Ms Letby because of the number of baby deaths and collapses during her shifts.

In a statement to Sky News, Ms Rees said she was not given enough information to justify removing Ms Letby from her duties.

Concerns were raised about Letby’s clinical practices during general review meeting

The former nursing chief said Karen Townsend, the director of urgent care at the hospital, and consultant Ravi Jayaram told her during a general review meeting that there were concerns about Ms Letby’s clinical practices.

Ms Rees said she was told at that stage that Dr Brearey thought Ms Letby should be removed from the neonatal unit – but said Dr Jayaram would not tell her why.

She added: ‘He said nothing about air embolus or overfeeding. He did not even mention babies dying and Lucy Letby being present. He just asked for Lucy Letby to be removed from the neonatal unit.’

Ms Rees said she felt she ‘urgently’ needed to speak with Dr Brearey about concerns around Ms Letby.

She added that after she got hold of him she explained that she needed more information before she could remove a nurse from the neonatal unit.

Ms Rees says she was not told of suspicions of babies being purposely harmed

Ms Rees said in her statement: ‘Stephen Brearey was measured throughout… I said that if there were issues then I needed to know what they were.

‘Despite that he refused to give me any more information. He said that he had evidence but he refused to show it to me.’

Ms Rees said she still does not understand why Dr Brearey would not provide her with more information, adding that if he had provided her with the evidence he had, a further death could potentially have been prevented.

She added: ‘At no point did he say that he suspected she had been purposely harming babies. If he had said that there had been 16 deaths, and that she was present for all of them, then my actions may well have differed.’

It had also been claimed during Ms Letby’s trial that Dr Brearey had asked Ms Rees if she would be happy to take responsibility if ‘something happened to any of the babies tomorrow’. The retired nursing chief is alleged to have said ‘yes’.

But Ms Rees said in her statement that the claim is ‘completely untrue’ and an ‘outrageous allegation to make’. She added that she is ‘currently taking legal advice about the untrue allegations’.

Dr Brearey has been contacted for comment.

Dr Brearey, who blew the whistle on Letby in 2015, was reported by the Guardian as saying in an interview that the hospital had been ‘negligent’ in its handling of the killings and failing to properly address concerns about Letby raised by him and other doctors.

Former director of nursing Alison Kelly suspended from current role

Meanwhile, Countess of Chester Hospital former director of nursing Alison Kelly, who left the hospital in 2021, has been suspended from her current role at Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester. It comes after the government ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the case.

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘In light of information that has emerged during the trial of Lucy Letby, and the announcement of the independent inquiry, the Northern Care Alliance has suspended Alison Kelly.’

Ms Letby, 33, who has been convicted of murdering seven babies and trying to kill six others between 2015 and 2016, is expected to face the rest of her life behind bars when she is sentenced on 21 August.

Read more on the Lucy Letby trial

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