Grieving couple who refused to accept hospital trust’s explanation over their stillborn daughter and fought for years for the truth about her death ‘welcome’ news that it will be investigated by the police

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  • Jack and Sarah Hawkins couldn’t bear living near hospital where daughter died
  • An investigation into the tragedy found that it was ‘almost certainly preventable’ 

Jack and Sarah Hawkins’ refusal to accept NUH’s explanation that stillborn daughter Harriet ‘died of an infection’ seven years ago proved instrumental in exposing the Nottingham maternity scandal. 

As their daughter had been delivered without taking a breath, there was no inquest into Harriet’s death. 

But the couple – who both worked at the Trust – knew through their own medical knowledge that Nottingham City Hospital’s claim about the infection in the womb was untrue. 

With the support of their solicitors they embarked on their own investigations – and were forced to Harriet’s body in the mortuary for two years as inquiries continued. 

A Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report published in 2018 found the tragedy, which unfolded after Mrs Hawkins was twice sent home from hospital while in labour and agonising pain, was ‘almost certainly preventable’. 

Jack and Sarah Hawkins (pictured with daughter Lottie), have welcomed a police investigation into their stillborn daughter's death

Jack and Sarah Hawkins (pictured with daughter Lottie), have welcomed a police investigation into their stillborn daughter’s death

It said errors included a delay in applying appropriate foetal monitoring, the important omission of information on an antenatal advice sheet and a failure to follow the Risk Management Policy for maternity. 

The report also found failures to record or pass on information correctly, failure to follow correct guidelines and delays in administering the correct treatment. 

The couple said they asked the trust to notify the police of her death at the time. 

They added: ‘This conversation has been repeated multiple times with senior people at NUH and with the local NHS over the years. 

‘We anticipate that we will be meeting with the chief constable soon to understand what the police investigation will mean for each and every one of us.’ 

Mr Hawkins, 53, and his 38-year-old wife moved from Nottingham because they ‘could not bear’ being close to the hospital where their daughter died. 

They now live in London, where they welcomed daughter Lottie, in November 2019. 

They continue to coordinate and uncover experiences of others who have suffered maternity trauma at NUH.


Police probe dozens of hospital baby deaths and injuries in Nottingham

Police have launched an investigation into failings in maternity care at a scandal-hit hospital trust.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) is already at the centre of the largest inquiry of its kind – led by independent midwife Donna Ockenden – which is examining 1,800 cases.

Dozens of babies died or suffered serious injury at the Queen’s Medical Centre and City Hospital, and affected families have complained of a lack of transparency. A statement on behalf of a group of around 230 families caught up in the scandal welcomed the Nottinghamshire Police announcement – seven years since the first calls for police involvement from Dr Jack Hawkins and wife Sarah after the death of their daughter Harriet in 2016.

In the statement, the families, who co-ordinate via a closed Facebook group, said: ‘A large number of us have alleged crimes and we will be sharing our evidence with the police to assist them with their investigations. There has been poor maternity care as well as poor investigation of that care at NUH over many years.’

The group said they hope the police inquiry will ‘encompass not just the care of individuals who have died and seriously harmed babies and mothers, but also what families allege is a far-reaching cover-up by NUH and NHS staff’.

Officers will investigate events at NUH alongside the Ockenden inquiry, just as West Mercia Police conducted its ongoing probe into maternity care in Shrewsbury and Telford alongside Mrs Ockenden’s previous inquiry into 1,500 cases there.

Nottinghamshire Chief Constable Kate Meynell said: ‘On Wednesday, I met with Donna Ockenden to discuss her independent review into maternity cases of potentially significant concern at NUH and to build up a clearer picture of the work that is taking place.

‘We are currently looking at the work being done in Shrewsbury and Telford by West Mercia Police to understand how they conducted their investigation alongside Donna Ockenden’s review.

‘Anthony May, chief executive of NUH, has committed to… cooperate with this police investigation.’

Mrs Ockenden’s report into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, published in April last year, found 201 babies and nine mothers could have survived if they received better care between 1973 and 2020.

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust is facing the largest inquiry of its kind, examining 1,800 cases

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust is facing the largest inquiry of its kind, examining 1,800 cases

West Mercia Police said its Operation Lincoln probe into that scandal was continuing. No arrests have so far been made.

Last week, Dr Hawkins, who at the time of his daughter’s death was NUH’s clinical director for NHS improvement as well as a consultant, said there were ‘missing classrooms of children’ in Nottingham due to the scandal.

His wife, who also worked at the trust at the time as a physiotherapist, added: ‘There were healthy mothers going in with healthy babies and were coming out with empty car seats, they were having to do CPR on their babies and walk out with tiny white coffins.’

In 2021 the couple received a £2.8million payout – the largest ever in a stillbirth case in the UK – after an external inquiry identified 13 care failures relating to Harriet’s death.

A Root Cause Analysis Investigation Report published in 2018 went on to conclude the tragedy was ‘almost certainly preventable’.

Nottingham has accepted its maternity services were unsafe and has paid almost £90million in compensation. The claims related to dozens of deaths, stillbirths and 46 cases of babies left brain damaged after mistakes.

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