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Police launch investigation into high number of baby deaths at Countess of Chester hospital

Cheshire Police has launched an investigation into the deaths of a number babies at the Countess of Chester hospital.

Police say the investigation is in a relation to a high number of baby deaths and collapses “than normally would be expected” during the period of June 2015 and June 2016.

The force investigation will focus on the deaths of eight babies at the neonatal unit, seven other deaths in the same period will also be reviewed by Cheshire Police.

In a statement released today Detective Chief Superintendent Nigel Wenham said:

In May 2017, The Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust contacted Cheshire Constabulary regarding neonatal services at the hospital.

This was in relation to a greater number of baby deaths and collapses than normally expected during the period of June 2015 and June 2016.

The hospital also made the Constabulary aware of a number of independent reviews that they had commissioned into these deaths.

As a result, Cheshire Constabulary has launched an investigation, which will focus on the deaths of eight babies that occurred between that period where medical practitioners have expressed concern.

In addition the investigation will also conduct a review of a further seven baby deaths and six non-fatal collapses during the same period.

We recognise that this investigation will have a significant impact on all of the families involved, staff and patients at the hospital and the public.

Parents of the babies are being updated on the investigation and will be supported throughout the process by specially trained officers.  We are committed to carrying out the investigation as quickly as possible.

Parents of the babies are being updated on the investigation and will be supported throughout the process by specially trained officers.

We are committed to carrying out the investigation as quickly as possible.

Hospital requested input of police.

Bosses at the Countess of Chester Hospital say they requested the input of Cheshire Police into its ongoing review of neonatal services.

In February this year they published the findings from an independent, clinical review into neonatal services at the Countess carried out by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

Extract from review published in February

The report pointed to 24 recommendations for improvement but found no single cause to explain the increase in neonatal deaths, the review did point out the unit operated with “inadequate” staffing levels

The review also included a further detailed case note review by an independent neonatologist that say the hospital has been unable to answer all of the questions regarding the cause of death for a number of babies.

Doctors at the Countess have continuing concerns about the unexplained deaths a statement from the hospital says, it goes onto to say “everything possible has been done to help determine the causes of death in our neonatal unit between June 2015 and June 2016.”

Bosses say the hospital “has taken the clinical review as far as we can” and asked for the input of Cheshire Police to seek assurances “that enable us to rule out unnatural causes of death.”

Countess of Chester Hospital Medical Director Ian Harvey said:

We are deeply sorry for the further distress and heartache this will cause. Throughout this we have never lost sight of the families left bereaved by the loss of their baby, and they will continue to be our main concern.

At every point where the hospital has been able to share information with families and the public, we have done so. Approaching the police is not something we have undertaken lightly.

This is to ensure we have been completely thorough in understanding what has happened here and to get the answers we and the families so desperately want.

Specially trained officers from Cheshire Police have been in contact with those families directly affected, and we will continue to provide our support where it is appropriate.

The Countess of Chester hospital looks after about 400 babies a year.

They stopped providing care for babies born earlier than 32 weeks in July last year.

Any women expected to deliver earlier are transferred elsewhere.