More than 200 deaths of mothers and babies at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust have been investigated by an independent inquiry.
The inquiry into failings at the North West foundation trust, chaired by Bill Kirkup, has examined more than 200 maternal, perinatal and neonatal deaths with more than 50 cases identified for detailed analysis.
The details of the scale of individual cases being scrutinised by the inquiry emerged in minutes of a meeting held by its expert panel members in July which was published last month.
Each of the cases will be examined and form part of questions to witnesses, and be used to identify themes on what went wrong and how lessons can be learned by the wider NHS.
A document has also revealed the inquiry plans to call former Labour health ministers to give evidence. Although it does not name which ministers might be asked to give evidence, the document says letters have been sent identifying them as “potential interviewees” and asking for a “a short written summary of their knowledge of the situation at the trust”.
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Witnesses who have already given evidence to the inquiry include former NHS England chief executive Sir David Nicholson, former chief executive of the Care Quality Commission Cynthia Bower, and Mike Farrar, former chief executive of the NHS Confederation who also headed the North West strategic health authority between 2006 and 2011.
The Kirkup inquiry was set up by the government last year following a number of maternal and infant deaths at Morecambe Bay between 2004 and 2008. These were highlighted in a campaign by James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died at the trust in 2008.
Mr Titcombe told HSJ: “The fact there are so many cases is an indication of how many families may have been affected.
“I am pleased with the way the inquiry is operating. They are interviewing the right people and it seems to be a very thorough process with no stone left unturned.”
He said he hoped shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, who was a former minister of state in the Department of Health in 2006-07 and health secretary in 2009-10, would give evidence to the inquiry, particularly around the political environment in 2009 and how that may have affected the regulators’ approach to Morecambe Bay.
The inquiry panel is due to meet at its headquarters in Preston on 11 September.
It is understood the inquiry will publish a final report before the end of the year. This will be “thematic” in nature, rather than limited to its initial terms of reference, HSJ understands.