The Care Quality Commission is considering the prosecution of a hospital trust facing allegations of poor maternity care, HSJ can reveal.

East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust was the subject of a damning 2016 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists report, which found numerous concerns about maternity services at the trust, including around two cases where babies died and others where they were deprived of oxygen at birth.

Asked to confirm whether a criminal investigation had been launched, CQC chief inspector of hospitals Ted Baker said in a statement: “Alongside our responsibilities to families and loved ones, we have a legal duty under Regulation 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 to investigate and, where appropriate, to prosecute a provider registered with us for a failure to provide safe care or treatment resulting in avoidable harm or a significant risk of avoidable harm.”

He added: “We are unable to comment on an ongoing criminal investigation.”

HSJ understands no decision on a prosecution has been made.

HSJ revealed this morning that, although the CQC was aware of the RCOG report and the trust had shared information in what it was doing in response to the findings, the watchdog’s records show it did not see in full until earlier this year.

An inquest concerning the care of Harry Richford, who died in 2017 shortly after being born at one of the trust’s hospitals, is also due to conclude this week and is expected to highlight similar concerns to those in the 2016 report. The trust’s medical director since 2013, nephrologist Paul Stevens, has made a statement to the coroner examining the death.

The trust has already admitted the care offered to Harry “fell short of the standard that we expected to offer”. 

The headline and first paragraph of this story were amended at 16.50 on January 22 after the CQC said they were only “considering” a criminal investigation and would not confirm whether an investigation would take place, as they had done earlier