Lucy Letby: police review 4,000 babies’ care as inquiry is called
Detectives check for potential cases of concern in Chester and Liverpool as government reveals independent inquiry will look at handling of clinicians’ concerns
Detectives are reviewing the care of 4,000 babies admitted to hospital while Lucy Letby was a neonatal nurse in Chester and Liverpool, as the government orders a public inquiry following the nurse’s conviction.
Ms Letby has been found guilty of seven murders and six attempted murders at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Chester between June 2015 and June 2016.
Reviews will cover period of Lucy Letby’s employment
Police say they are continuing to look into any incidents of potential concern in the period from January 2012 to the end of June 2016, when Ms Letby was at the Countess of Chester. During this time she completed two work placements at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, in 2012 and 2015.
Cheshire Constabulary emphasised only those cases highlighted as of medical concern would be investigated further. The review at Liverpool Women’s Hospital does not involve any deaths.
Senior investigating officer detective superintendent Paul Hughes said: ‘This does not mean we are investigating all 4,000. It just means we are committed to a thorough review of every admission from a medical perspective, to ensure nothing is missed throughout her employment as a nurse.
‘We would be foolish if we were to think we have gathered in one go all cases Lucy Letby could have touched. So we are committed to doing an overarching investigation looking at every single baby’s admission into neonatal unit for the entire footprint Lucy Letby has been employed.
‘There are some cases which have been initially highlighted to us by an independent review as concerning and those parents have been informed about where we are with that investigation, and are being supported.’
Independent inquiry will look at how clinicians’ concerns were handled
The department of health and social care (DHSC) has announced a non-statutory independent inquiry. It will:
- Examine circumstances behind the murders and attempted murders of babies at Countess of Chester Hospital, to help ensure families get the answers they need
- Look at the circumstances surrounding the deaths and incidents, including how concerns raised by clinicians were handled
- Invite babies’ families to participate in and shape the inquiry, to ensure their views are heard
Neonatologists now working through children’s medical records
Two neonatologists are checking the medical notes of children to identify, in broad terms, any unexpected and unexplained collapses, DS Hughes said.
If an issue is identified then it will be passed to the relevant hospital to ‘overlay their knowledge’ of the case before a decision is made on whether to take the matter further, he added.
‘We are not narrowing it down to Lucy Letby. So a doctor could say ‘I have a concern about a case here’ and she might not even have been there. It’s not specific to her because it would be too directive.’
We will continue to learn lessons – Countess of Chester Hospital trust
Countess of Cheshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust's medical director said ‘lessons continue to be learned’ following Ms Letby’s conviction.
Speaking outside the hospital on 18 August following Lucy Letby’s trial Nigel Scawn offered condolences to the families and staff involved.
He said: ‘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 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 the nurse worked at the hospital and offered reassurance patients can have confidence in the care they will receive.
Deaths and non-fatal collapses of infants
Following the arrest of Ms Letby in July 2018, police said their investigation was looking at 17 deaths and 15 non-fatal collapses between March 2015 and July 2016.
Mr Hughes said a number of those deaths were no longer under investigation because a natural, or biological, cause had been identified.
Countess of Chester Hospital has previously said two babies died on the unit in 2013 and three in 2014.
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