PATIENT SAFETY: The first of eight midwives accused of misconduct related to poor care and deaths at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust will appear at a fitness to practise hearing next week.

Allegations against Marie Ratcliffe, a former band 7 midwife at Furness General Hospital, will be heard before a Nursing and Midwifery Council panel, starting on Monday.

Furness General Hospital, Barrow

The midwife allegedly failed to adequately monitor patients at Furness General Hospital

The allegations include claims she failed to adequately monitor patients, record key observations in patient notes or request assistance from doctors between 2004 and 2013.

The NMC charges say her misconduct and actions “contributed to the death” of at least two babies or caused them “to lose a significant chance of survival”.

In March the independent inquiry into the failings at Morecambe Bay, led by Bill Kirkup, found failures at the trust led to avoidable deaths of at least 11 babies and one mother.

Ms Ratcliffe, who was subjected to an 18-month interim suspension order by the NMC in January last year, has since retired from the NHS.

An internal review by the trust in 2004 criticised Ms Ratcliffe following the death of baby Elleanor Bennett. An inquest in 2013 found she was starved of oxygen after her heartbeat was not monitored for 43 minutes before she was delivered. Her parents were not told about the 2004 review.

The Kirkup inquiry said the 2004 investigation was “rudimentary, overprotective of staff and failed to identify underlying problems”.

The inquiry said a better investigation at that time “would not only have reduced the likelihood of unnecessary loss of babies and mothers, it could have corrected the poor risk assessment and unsafe practice at an early stage, before inappropriate attitudes and behaviour had become more deeply embedded into day to day practice and influenced others on the unit”.

In total eight midwives who worked at the trust could face disciplinary action from the NMC.

In November the NMC said that four midwives linked to cases involving the deaths of babies should face fitness to practise hearings.

Four other midwives’ cases are subject to further investigation.

HSJ understands seven of the eight cases under consideration by the NMC refer to midwives involved in the treatment of baby Joshua Titcombe, who died from septicaemia in October 2008 after a catalogue of errors.