Further details have emerged of the independent inquiry into University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust’s maternity and neonatal services.
Inquiry chair Bill Kirkup issued a statement on Friday saying he wanted the investigation to be transparent, with affected families encouraged to attend the hearings and interviews.
Dr Kirkup confirmed that the panel would take evidence from regulators Monitor and the Care Quality Commission, as well as the trust itself. The Department of Health, NHS England, the Health and Safety Executive, Public Health England and Cumbria Constabulary would also be called upon.
The panel is currently deciding what evidence it will require from the organisations involved.
Dr Kirkup said he would canvass the views of affected families throughout the investigation. The panel will also be contacting any families that have not come forward yet and who could share their experiences of the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital.
The investigation will look at the trust’s delivery of maternity care as well as its board’s responses to previous reports into care standards and any action taken. It will present findings on how adequate these actions were in tackling safety concerns and make recommendations for future care.
An initial meeting will take place later this month with the investigation panel. Dr Kirkup has brought together a team from a variety of relevant specialties covering governance, obstetrics, midwifery, paediatrics, ethics and neonatal nursing.
The panel members include chair of the Health Research Authority Jonathan Montgomery, who will advise on ethical matters, and director of nursing at King’s College Hospital Foundation Trust Geraldine Walters, who will advise on nursing issues.
The hearings will take place in Preston.
The panel is currently completing a review of existing documents, identifying what further information will be needed and deciding who they will interview. An analyst has been hired to help review and compare the statistical evidence.
All interviews and panel meetings will be held in the presence of affected families “to ensure that the investigation process is transparent and open to their scrutiny”. The panel also intends to post a summary of their progress on a dedicated website.
Dr Kirkup said: “I am conscious that this is an onerous investigation, and the patience and co-operation of all involved will be required in order to complete the task. The objective, however, is an important one, and I am determined that the work of the panel will contribute to improving the future management, delivery and outcomes of care provided by the maternity and neonatal services at the trust, and the wider NHS.”
The investigation now has a live website which can be found here.