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Father says 'errors were pushed aside' as NHS Trust is fined £730,000 over death of baby boy

A tearful father said 'errors were pushed aside for many years' after an NHS Trust was fined £733,000 over the death of a seven-day-old baby boy.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust admitted failures in the case of Harry Richford, who died days after his emergency delivery in November 2017 following a botched labour, delivery and resuscitation.

The scandal-hit healthcare provider was sentenced in court today over baby Harry's death, a tragedy which was deemed 'wholly avoidable' by a coroner.

Care for mothers and newborn babies at the trust has been heavily criticised amid reports that at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred since 2016. 

Parents Tom and Sarah Richford attended Folkestone Magistrates' Court to hear the sentence read out after spending years fighting for answers. 

Ms Richford said some of the care she and Harry received was 'dire and inexcusable', in a statement read out by the judge.  

And giving an emotional statement after the hearing, Mr Richford said he was happy that a 'sanction' was delivered but suggested policymakers explore options other than financial penalties for publicly funded organisations.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust admitted failures in the case of Harry Richford (pictured above, with his parents Tom and Sarah Richford), who died days after his emergency delivery in November 2017

Mr and Mrs Richford pictured reading a statement outside Folkestone Magistrates' Court today, after the hearing where the trust was fined £733,000 for failing to provide safe care and treatment following the death of baby Harry

He added: 'Mistakes happen every day, and in a hospital this will lead to death - we have, over time, come to accept this.

'Learning from these errors is vital and what makes hospitals a better and safer place for all.

'Sadly, both individual and systemic errors were pushed aside for many years with no learning taking place.'

He argued that this led to the 'significant failings' witnessed in Harry's death and others which are now being investigated by Dr Bill Kirkup, who is leading an independent review into East Kent Hospitals' maternity services.

Mr Richford added: 'Had these failings been addressed promptly and effectively we would not be here today, we are not here because of the failings from one evening.'

Fighting back tears as his wife stood beside him, he asked for privacy for the family but vowed to 'privately support' any future investigations to ensure long-lasting change at local and national level.

The total fine of £1.1million was reduced to £733,000 due to the trust's guilty plea.

District judge Justin Barron said: 'The trust fell far short of the appropriate standards of care and treatment in dealing with you.'

Mr and Mrs Richford pictured arriving at court today. The mother said some of the care she and Harry received was 'dire and inexcusable', in a statement read out by the judge

The scandal-hit healthcare provider was sentenced in court today over baby Harry's death, a tragedy which was deemed 'wholly avoidable' by a coroner (pictured: file photo of the entrance to the maternity unit of the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Kent)

How baby Harry died just seven days into his life

After arriving at hospital on November 2, 2017, Mrs Richford was given a drug to speed up labour over a period of 10 hours - a decision which was criticised by the coroner, because it hyper-stimulated Harry.

She was rushed to theatre for an emergency Cesarean after Harry began to show signs of distress, and medics tried to deliver with forceps before performing an emergency section.

Harry should have been delivered within 30 minutes, but was instead delivered after some 92 minutes.

Locum registrar Dr Christos Spyroulis, described by the coroner as 'inexperienced', delivered Harry at 3.32am.

It emerged in the inquest that there was no record of the doctor being assessed, and he had said that he was not asked about his level of experience.

Staff nurse Laura Guest had described the scene as 'chaotic', adding she 'didn't feel it was being strongly led'.

Resuscitation began after Harry was born 'silent and floppy' and not moving.

Harry died on November 9 after his life support was removed.

He said the failures led to 'the greatest harm imaginable'.

He added that the trust is 'very much under the spotlight' as a result of the failures and said it was important that it takes action to restore confidence in its standard of care, something Mr Barron said it is doing.

In April, East Kent Hospitals admitted failing to provide safe care and treatment to Harry and his mother under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations.

The plea followed a prosecution by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Philip Cave, finance director for the trust and a member of the board, acknowledged a series of failures at East Kent Hospitals and apologised to Mr and Mrs Richford.

He told the court: 'I wish to emphasise that the trust does have insight into the failures that led to baby Harry's death and the psychological injury caused to Mrs Richford.'

However, he denied suggestions that the trust had sought to cover up baby Harry's death.

Harry was born at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, Kent, before being transferred to the intensive neonatal unit at William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, where he later died.

In a statement released after the sentencing, the Richford family said: 'Having our lives thrown into the public eye is not what anybody wants to do but sadly this was needed to shine a light on the failings which led to Harry's death in 2017.

'Today the East Kent Hospitals Trust were fined for their failings.

'Although we are happy that a sanction has been delivered, we are unsure if the system currently in place is suitable for public funded organisations such as NHS trusts.

'Taking money away from a financially challenged resource does seem counterintuitive and we would encourage policymakers to consider any alternative options.'

At the inquest into Harry's death in January last year, coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks listed a series of errors he found with the care given (pictured: Mr and Mrs Richford at the earlier inquest outside Maidstone Coroner's Court)

The family also vowed to support future investigations into maternity safety to ensure 'long-lasting change' at local and national levels. 

Speaking earlier this year, Harry's father said: 'At every hurdle it did seem that the hospital were trying to avoid scrutiny, they didn't want to lose out on their reputation.

'So we kept having to fight and fight and fight, and eventually we've now got the inquests and the inquiries and the investigations that really mean that change should hopefully be more systemic and sustainable.'

Dr Rebecca Martin, Chief Medical Officer at the trust, pictured leaving court after the healthcare provider admitted failures in the case of Harry Richford earlier this year

Mrs Richford said the guilty plea in court shows that the care she and Harry received was sub-standard, adding that the family now have 'some sort of justice for what happened'.

She said: 'We've got some level of justice that means that, although Harry's life was short, hopefully it's made a difference and that other babies won't die.'

At the inquest into Harry's death in January last year, coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks listed a series of errors he found with the care given.

He gave a narrative conclusion that Harry's death was contributed to by neglect and had been 'wholly avoidable'.

Speaking outside court on Friday, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust's chairman Niall Dickson said the organisation 'welcome' the investigation by Dr Kirkup and are 'determined' to learn any lessons that emerge.

He added: 'Learning lessons and efforts to improve should never stop and we will work tirelessly to provide high-quality maternity services, which continually strive for improvement and are safe, effective, and centred on the women and children we care for.'

During the hearing, Philip Cave, finance director for the trust and a member of the board, acknowledged a series of failures at East Kent Hospitals but denied suggestions that the trust sought to cover up baby Harry's death.    
    

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