The chair of the inquiry into poor maternity care and deaths at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust has said he was ‘disappointed’ by the response of professional bodies to his report.
Bill Kirkup told HSJ he wanted to see more “professional leadership” from bodies such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.
The Kirkup investigation, published earlier this month, found that failures at “almost every level of the NHS” created a “lethal mix” which caused the avoidable deaths of at least 11 babies and one mother at Furness General Hospital.
But Dr Kirkup said the response from professional groups in the weeks following the report had been “quite muted”.
He said: “I am disappointed that there wasn’t a stronger response from the professions, particularly the medical profession. There just hasn’t been any attention given to it at all.
“I would like to see a stronger response from all of the medical, nursing and midwifery bodies, given that the events at Morecambe Bay were triggered in the first place by clinical failures.”
He said the inquiry contained important messages for professional groups and he wanted the bodies to show “some professional leadership”.
His claims were rejected by both the RCOG and the RCM, which said they were taking time to develop detailed responses to the report.
Dr Kirkup, a former associate chief medical officer of the Department of Health and a member of the Hillsborough Independent Panel inquiry, said he had also been “concerned” by some comments online which he described as “defensive”.
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This included blogs by midwives suggesting the report was anti-midwives or against normal birth, while on social media relatives of those who suffered poor care at Morecambe Bay had been accused of “midwife bashing” and “retrospective negativity”.
Dr Kirkup said his report was supportive of midwives and normal childbirth where there were proper risk assessments, but that it was important events at Morecambe Bay were not viewed “as a one-off problem isolated to a single aberrant unit”. He added: “There is learning in this for maternity services elsewhere and for the rest of the NHS.”
He expressed surprise at the comments of lawyers who told HSJ that new standards for senior clinicians would be difficult to implement, saying these already existed for nurses and doctors, and should not be difficult to apply to senior roles.
“Many lead clinicians already have a good understanding of their responsibilities, but it is clear not all do and Morecambe Bay has shown that ‘you would hope that would happen anyway’ is not always good enough,” he said.
David Richmond, president of RCOG, said a detailed response to the inquiry would be published soon, adding it “undoubtedly” had learning for the wider professions.
“I thought the report was stark and worrying,” he said.
Dr Richmond said the royal college had tried to be more involved in the inquiry but this was “stymied at every turn”.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of RCM, said it was taking the report “extremely seriously”, adding: “We are taking time to look into the report in detail to draw up a work plan.”
She said this would include addressing issues such as the clinical competence of midwives, the ability to raise concerns and working with other professionals.