A backup tape which may have contained emails linked to an infant death at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay was destroyed despite a specific police request to retain records, HSJ has learned.
The foundation trust has confirmed that a data backup tape from 2008 was “securely destroyed” on 4 November 2011 despite detectives requesting months previously that emails and “any other correspondence” in respect of baby Joshua Titcombe’s death were “retained”.
Police are investigating the circumstances of Joshua’s death shortly after his birth at Morecambe Bay’s Furness General Hospital in October 2008.
The trust’s medical director George Nasmyth said it believed the chances of the tape containing previously undisclosed information about Joshua’s care to be “extremely remote”. However, he added Morecambe Bay was examining how it came to be destroyed in light of the police request to retain emails.
Joshua’s father, James Titcombe, has led a campaign to expose poor care and regulatory failings at the trust, which will be examined as part of an inquiry in public chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup.
Mr Titcombe told HSJ: “I am angry that the police specifically asked them to keep everything and yet they allowed these tapes to be destroyed in the midst of a police investigation.
“It just raises suspicion and is very frustrating, because now we will never know what information might have been on the tape.”
A spokeswoman for Cumbria Constabulary told HSJ the destruction of the backup tape would be examined by detectives as part of their wider review of issues surrounding the trust and allegations of a cover-up at the Care Quality Commission.
She said: “The deletion of the backup tape will be considered by detectives as part of our wider review of the investigation and the report into the CQC.
“We are looking at everything that has come to light around the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust and the issues concerned with that.”
Morecambe Bay medical director George Nasmyth said: “While we recognise the destruction of the backup tape will be extremely disappointing for Mr Titcombe, we believe the chance of any data relating to the care of mother and baby existing on the tape that has not been already shared is extremely remote.”
He explained the only way the tape would have contained information missed in previous trawls was if someone had deleted the email and also emptied their deleted items folder.
He said the destruction of the backup tape was in line with the trust’s data procedures but added: “In light of the letter sent from the police in 2011 to the trust, we are currently examining why this occurred.”