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Nottingham maternity inquiry: what will it take to make services safer?

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 14 July 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1636
  1. Emma Wilkinson
  1. Sheffield

With the inquiry into failings in maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals set to become the largest of its kind in the UK, Emma Wilkinson examines what needs to change

This week NHS England wrote to families involved in the inquiry into maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) NHS Trust to confirm that it had agreed to the review becoming an “opt out” rather than an “opt in” process.

The independent inquiry chair, Donna Ockenden, confirmed that cases of as many as 1700 families could now be examined, making it the largest probe into failings in maternity care in the UK and the fourth such review in England since 2015.1

This is the same approach that Ockenden, a former midwife, took in the Shrewsbury and Telford inquiry. Around 1500 families took part—95% of those asked—and the final report published last year concluded that 200 baby deaths had been avoidable.2

The goal of moving to an “opt out” approach is to tackle under-representation of women from minority ethnic groups and those living in deprived areas. It is hoped that the inquiry can now provide “a more realistic picture of maternity care at NUH,” Ockenden said in a statement.

Families won’t have to speak to the review if they don’t want to, but their medical records can be examined as part of the inquiry, which to this point has involved 674 families. The final report was expected for March 2024, but it’s not yet clear if it will now be delayed.

NUH has already admitted that its services at Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital were unsafe, …

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