Harry Richford: East Kent NHS pleads guilty in maternity scandal case

Jon Sharman
·2 min read
<p>East Kent NHS admitted to failing Sarah Richford and her baby, Harry in 2017</p> (Richford family)

East Kent NHS admitted to failing Sarah Richford and her baby, Harry in 2017

(Richford family)

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust has admitted failing to provide safe care and treatment for seven-day-old Harry Richford, who died in 2017, and his mother Sarah Richford.

The trust pleaded guilty at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

The Care Quality Commission charged East Kent over Harry’s death, the first time the watchdog had prosecuted an NHS trust over a safety failure in the clinical care of patients under powers it was given in 2015, following the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital care disaster.

An inquest found that Harry's death at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in November 2017 was “wholly avoidable”.

The infant died on 9 November that year, seven days after he was born by caesarean section. There was a delay in helping him to breathe leading to a severe lack of oxygen and brain damage.

Ms Richford added they now have “some sort of justice for what happened”.

She told PA: “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.”

“If somebody had done this before Harry was born he may be alive today,” she added.

In a statement, the family added: “For the period of 2020 following Harry’s inquest, neonatal deaths have fallen in the trust by 55 per cent and stillbirths by 20 per cent compared to the previous seven-year average.

“This proves that with the right level of focus, leadership and attention, babies’ lives can be saved. Harry’s life and our sacrifice has made a significant difference here in East Kent and it must be maintained.”

Dr Bill Kirkup, who previously led an investigation of maternity care failures at another NHS trust, is overseeing an independent inquiry into East Kent.

The Independent revealed in January 2020 that 68 babies had died at the trust between 2014 and 2018, and 138 had suffered brain damage after being starved of oxygen during birth.

Susan Acott, chief executive of East Kent, said in a statement: “We are deeply sorry that we failed Harry, Sarah and the Richford family and apologise unreservedly for our failures in their care.

“We have already made significant changes following Harry’s death and we will continue to do everything we can to learn from this tragedy.

"We are working closely with national maternity experts to make sure we are doing everything we can to make rapid and sustainable improvements.

“We have welcomed the independent investigation into maternity services in East Kent and we are doing everything in our power to assist and support the investigation.”

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