Harry Richford death: Father says culture at NHS trust ‘really quite unsafe’

The culture at an under-fire NHS trust is “really quite unsafe” and a public inquiry into baby deaths is needed, the father of Harry Richford has said.

Tom Richford said the scale of the problem at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust needs to be understood before it can be resolved.

His son Harry died just seven days after his emergency delivery in a “wholly avoidable” tragedy in November 2017, an inquest found.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Thursday morning, ahead of an anticipated Government response to the issue in the House of Commons, Mr Richford criticised trust chief executive Susan Acott.

He said: “It feels like she is in complete denial of the whole scale of the problem.

“I think we are going to call for a public inquiry to find out the scale of the problem, and once we know the scale of the problem, hopefully people will be able to go in there and resolve the problems that there are.”

Mr Richford said that despite writing “numerous letters”, he and his wife Sarah had never spoken to Ms Acott.

It comes amid reports that at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at the trust since 2016.

Harry Richford family
Sarah and Tom Richford, the parents of Harry, want a public inquiry (Emma Bowden/PA)

Mr Richford said: “At the minute we have got the leader of this whole trust in complete denial about the scale of the problems and with that is going to lead to a real lack of learning.

“And I feel like that is now embedded throughout that trust and the culture is really quite unsafe at the East Kent Hospitals Trust at the moment.”

At Harry’s inquest last month, Coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks listed a series of errors he found with the care given at the hospital.

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

Bosses at the NHS trust said it was with “great sadness” that they accepted failing Harry and his family.

Following the conclusion of the inquest into the death of baby Harry Richford at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital, Trust Medical Director Paul Stevens has wholeheartedly apologised to the family for the devastating loss of Harry: https://t.co/jbzlgOQ9Ju

— East Kent Hospitals (@EKHUFT) January 24, 2020

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Ms Acott said the cause of some baby deaths was “not clear cut”.

“When I asked my colleagues to investigate and to give me clear information around what caused the death they’re certain we must apologise and hold our hands up that there is definitely six or seven,” she said.

“But I think when you’re looking at babies that are born very prematurely, often with congenital issues as well, it’s not always quite as clear cut as that and so I think some of those cases are not black and white.”

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