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Families call for an inquiry after nine baby deaths at the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust


Families of nine babies who died at a scandal-hit NHS trust are calling for a public inquiry into its maternity services.


Bereaved parents say intervention is needed to prevent more 'unnecessary deaths' after four mothers nearly lost their lives and nine babies died between 2021 and 2023.


The University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust is already being investigated by police over allegations of medical negligence, relating to the care of adults in neurosurgery and general surgery between 2015 and 2021.


Separate reports by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Royal College of Surgeons have raised concerns about poor leadership and a 'culture of fear' within the surgery department.


Now families who experienced poor maternity care have come forward with fresh allegations of failings at two hospitals managed by the trust: the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and Worthing Hospital.


Bereaved parents say they experienced reluctance from maternity teams to act urgently and a failure to take symptoms seriously. 


They also reported maternity staff relying on telephone assessments and failing to appropriately monitor mothers and babies during labour.


Staff have been accused of dismissing mothers' concerns, such as reduced movements of babies in the womb – a red flag indicating a baby is unwell.


In a statement, the families wrote: 'With the volume and repetition of errors in maternity care by the trust, we believe babies will continue to unnecessarily die unless there is intervention.'


Maternity services at the Brighton hospital were rated 'inadequate' by the CQC in 2021. The NHS watchdog noted some improvements have been made since, but maternity services remain 'inadequate'. 


Meanwhile, services at Worthing Hospital are rated as 'requires improvement'. The families added: 'Our babies were otherwise healthy and would have grown up if not for failings in care and the dismissal of our concerns. 


'[They] never got a chance to grow up, learn to walk and speak, make friends.'


The group of families includes those of five babies who died at the Brighton hospital and four who died at Worthing Hospital. 


It is backing calls for the next government to launch a national inquiry, following findings of failings at other NHS trusts including Morecambe Bay, Shrewsbury and Telford, and East Kent.


Nisha Sharma, a lawyer at Slater and Gordon who is handling claims against University Hospitals Sussex, said: 'Individually, the deaths of each of these babies is a tragedy. Taken together, it's a shocking and appalling situation'. 


Dr Maggie Davies, of the trust, said: 'We offer our sincere apologies to each of the bereaved families. Our outcomes for mothers and babies are better than most trusts in the country, but we must continue to listen and improve.'


Anyone who has experienced poor maternity care at the trust can contact the group of families at truthforourbabies.org.uk.


'Neglect' that cost the life of a newborn


Mother Robyn Davis lost her baby Orlando at one of the hospitals run by the embattled University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust in 2021 – and findings of 'neglect' were revealed in an inquest.


Orlando died at Worthing Hospital after maternity staff failed to realise that his mother had developed hyponatremia – a rare fluid imbalance – during labour.


An inquest found that his death in September 2021 was 'contributed to by neglect'.

In another case, baby Abigail Fowler Miller died in January 2022, two days after she was born by emergency C-section at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.


Her mother Katie Fowler went into cardiac arrest in a taxi on the way to hospital after midwives relying on over-the-phone assessments missed warning signs of massive internal bleeding.

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