Intended for healthcare professionals


Investigation into baby’s death reveals “20 year cover-up” of failures

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 27 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4676

Linked Opinion

James Titcombe: Failing to learn and learning to fail

  1. Clare Dyer
  1. The BMJ

The UK government has apologised for “shocking and harrowing” mistakes in the care of a baby that were followed by a “20 year cover-up” of failures.1

Elizabeth Dixon was born prematurely in December 2000 and died just before her first birthday in December 2001. An independent investigation, commissioned by the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, found that a catalogue of clinical errors that began before her birth led to her brain damage and death.

The report’s author, Bill Kirkup, a leading expert on healthcare safety, said, “There were failures of care by every organisation that looked after her, none of which was admitted at the time, nor properly investigated then or later. Instead, a cover-up began on the day that she died, propped up by denial and deception, which has proved extremely hard to dislodge over the years. …

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