Employee suspended over inquest claims

Furness General Hospital.
Furness General Hospital.

A senior employee at Morecambe Bay’s crisis-hit health trust has been suspended over an apparent attempt to dissuade a coroner from holding an inquest into a baby’s death.

It comes after extracts of an internal email were made public by the mother of Alex Davey Brady, who was stillborn at Furness General Hospital in 2008.

In a separate development, two midwives who work at the Barrow hospital have also been suspended over a different, but as yet undisclosed, matter which has recently come to light.

Using data protection laws, Liza Brady obtained a number of documents relating to her son’s death, including an email sent by Ranu Rowan, head of legal services at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

Writing to the trust’s then chief executive, Tony Halsall, in 2009, Mrs Rowan’s email appreared to seek assurances from Mr Halsall that he was happy with a letter being sent to South Cumbria coroner Ian Smith “in the hope it may nudge him away from holding an inquest, as we discussed”.

That same year, Mr Smith did hold an inquest into Alex’s death and said doctors and midwives had not worked together as they should have.

David Wilkinson, director of workforce and organisational development at UHMBT, said the email was being treated ‘extremely seriously’ by the trust.

“I offer my sincere apologies for any further upset or concern caused by this email,” he said. “The chief executive responded personally to the concerns raised as soon as this serious matter was brought to her attention. This is being treated extremely seriously and involves staff members at the highest level of the organisation.

“We have taken the decision to precautionary suspend a current member of staff involved. This isn’t to apportion or infer blame, but to allow an investigation to establish the facts.”

An independent inquiry into failings at UHMBT, chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup is due to report to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by next summer.