Morecambe Bay midwifery scandal: NMC admits it ‘made an awful situation much worse’

We prioritised process over people, nurse regulator states

We prioritised process over people, nurse regulator states

Furness General Hospital  Picture: iStock

The nursing regulator admitted it ‘made an awful situation much worse’ for a grieving family in the wake of the Morecambe Bay midwifery scandal.

An independent review has criticised the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) for taking a 'totally unsuitable tone' in communications. And it found the regulator made incorrect statements in relation to evidence presented by James Titcombe about the death of his newborn son Joshua.

Maternal and infant deaths linked to hospital’s care failures

The deaths of at least 19 mothers and babies were linked to poor-quality maternity care at Furness General Hospital, in Cumbria, part of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, between 2004 and 2012.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council brought Fitness to Practise (FtP) cases against 30 midwives. But the regulator came under fire last year from the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for its management of these cases and for how it had treated bereaved parents.

As a result, the NMC commissioned independent consultants to investigate its handling of evidence from Mr Titcombe, which was missing from NMC case files for years.

NMC’s incorrect and misleading statements

Reviewers said the regulator made incorrect and misleading statements about the evidence. They pointed to poor management and communication, and 'accidental factors' inside the NMC. They also criticised the way Mr Titcombe and his family had been treated.

'Some of the correspondence we have seen from 2009-2014 was totally unsuitable in tone for a bereaved parent,’ the report states.

It said the NMC should be honest and respect families and patients, and ensure FtP panellists are briefed on the need to demonstrate this.

I am very sorry – NMC chief executive admits organisation’s failings

NMC chief executive Andrea Sutcliffe, who joined the organisation in 2018, admitted the treatment of the Titcombe family had been unacceptable.

‘Our actions made an awful situation much worse and I am very sorry,’ she said.

'Culture at the NMC at that time prioritised process over people,’ she added.

She claimed improvements had been made to record-keeping and support for the public. Extra training has been introduced for FtP panellists.

Mr Titcombe welcomed the prospect of a ‘more humane’ FtP process but remains unconvinced by the report’s explanation of events.

‘I do not believe the report has explained how the untrue and misleading account of what happened came to be given to so many people,’ he said.

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