Neonatal nurse Lucy Letby has been found guilty of seven counts of murder and seven counts of attempted murder. The verdict comes after the longest murder trial in British history. The horrific case has raised serious concerns surrounding the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the government has ordered an independent review into the circumstances behind the case.
Letby carried out her crimes between June 2015 and October 2016, despite concerns being raised by consultants on the ward as early as October 2015 after the first three deaths. The trust failed to investigate the deaths or the consultants’ concerns and Letby continued to murder and harm babies.
In February 2015, consultants put together a working group and produced a detailed report about all the deaths and the evidence to suggest that Letby was connected. This report was provided to the hospital’s medical director, but still no action was taken. Hospital management were aware of the strong connection between Letby and the rising death rate, but still allowed her to work on the neonatal ward.
Even nurses on the ward were concerned over how Letby was the common factor in the deaths and discussed this with the hospital’s chief nurse. Letby was just moved to work on day shifts, instead of night shifts.
In late June 2016, Letby was finally removed from the neonatal ward over a year after the first death. As soon as she was removed from the ward, the suspicious deaths and collapses stopped.
Consultants and nurses continued to raise concerns with the trust and requested that the police were contacted. Senior management refused to contact the police and instead asked the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health for a review of the department’s services. The report recommended that each death was examined in detail, but this never happened.
In January 2017, the trust were again recommended that the deaths were investigated but this did not happen. Consultants were even told by senior management that they had to apologise to Letby. Two consultants were forced to attend mediation sessions with Letby in March 2017.
A few weeks later, the trust finally asked the police to investigate the deaths.
In July 2018 Letby was still working at the hospital’s risk and patient safety office. She was finally suspended by the hospital and arrested, three years after concerns had first been raised.
When new management came into the hospital, it was discovered that in 2015 management decided to investigate the first three deaths. This never happened. The management team had also failed to categorise the deaths appropriately, meaning that the wider system was not aware of the high death rates. The board of the trust also did not know about the deaths until July 2016.
The government has now announced they will be launching an independent inquiry to understand how Letby was able to get away with her crimes for so long, and to consider why it took so long for the consultants’ concerns to be taken seriously by the trust.
Ally Taft, Head of Medical Negligence says: “It is deeply worrying to see that the concerns raised by medical staff were dismissed and that Letby was able to continue working on the neonatal ward, causing harm to such vulnerable babies. It is a similar pattern that I saw with the Ian Paterson cases and the reason he was also able to continue harming patients for so long. I hope that the inquiry will bring answers to the families of the babies and bring about major improvements in the trust.”