Senior midwife struck off after baby death scandal

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A senior midwife at the heart of a baby death scandal has been told she "brought the profession into disrepute" as she was struck off the medical register.

Jeanette Parkinson, the former maternity risk manager at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, admitted misconduct due to "inadequate" reviews into the deaths of two mothers and four babies.

Between 2008 and 2009, Ms Parkinson did not inform the health authorities about a string of her fellow midwives' shortcomings in the care of patients who later died.

In several cases, neither the quality of care nor standard of midwifery was further scrutinised due to Ms Parkinson failing to pass on information about the slip-ups.

This failure meant expectant mothers and their babies faced "unwarranted" risk in the future, an independent disciplinary panel found.

The panel announced at the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) on Tuesday that Ms Parkinson should no longer be allowed to practise.

Chairman Matthew Fiander said: "Ms Parkinson was expected to ensure that inadequate practice was identified and appropriately addressed.

"The public place trust and confidence not only in individual midwives but also in senior midwives to support junior colleagues, to hold them to account, and to properly manage clinical risk.

"In failing to adhere to these expectations, Ms Parkinson has brought the profession into disrepute.

"Ms Parkinson has breached a fundamental tenet of the profession in failing to provide a high standard of practice and care at all times."

An inquiry in 2015 found a "lethal mix'' of failures at the trust led to the unnecessary deaths of 11 babies and one mother between 2004 and 2013.

Ms Parkinson, who has since retired, was thought to be part of a close-knit group of midwives known as the "Musketeers" at Furness General Hospital, due to their "one-for-all" approach in deflecting criticism.

The oversights she failed to follow up included staff forgetting to monitor an unborn baby's heart rate and an inadequate 32-week review of an expectant mother, who died with her child inside her.

The midwife also "inappropriately" advised the local supervising authority not to take action against a colleague who presided over the care of a baby who died of sepsis.

"Ms Parkinson's failure to identify concerns put patients at an unwarranted risk of harm as there was a risk of poor practice being repeated," Mr Fiander continued.

"The risk of poor practice being repeated was particularly high in relation to fetal heart monitoring, which should have been identified in two of the RCAs."

An RCA is an assessment which Ms Parkinson, as a senior midwife, would have carried out to determine lessons to be learnt from each of the deaths.

Concluding, Mr Fiander said: "A striking off order is the only reasonable and proportionate sanction.

"Ms Parkinson failed to adequately perform two positions of seniority and exposed patients in the hospital to a further risk of harm."

Two of the babies died as newborns, one was a stillbirth while another died in its mother's uterus, the hearing was told.

On Monday, Ms Parkinson admitted a string of charges - which included her "inadequate analysis" into patient care led to risk to future patients not being properly considered - and that she was no longer fit to practise.

She did not attend either day's hearing.

In the case of the expectant mother, it was found Ms Parkinson had not reported key deficiencies in her care, including blood pressure not being taken at the 32-week inspection.

A symptom of her death from eclampsia was high blood pressure, it was heard.

"Had these concerns been identified, they may have been treated and Patient D's death two weeks later may have been prevented," Mr Fiander said.

In her report, Ms Parkinson had wrongly concluded: "There are lessons to be learnt from this case...however these factors do not appear to be directly related to (Patient D's) death."

Ms Parkinson is the seventh midwife to be probed by the NMC over the scandal, two of whom were also struck off while another was suspended.

Jackie Smith, NMC chief executive and registrar, said: "The conclusion of this case brings to a close the fitness to practise cases relating to failings in midwifery care at Morecambe Bay.

"As I have said before, these cases have taken far too long to conclude and I would like to sincerely apologise again to the families affected.

"As an organisation we are reflecting on what can be done to make sure cases do not take so long to conclude in future."