East Kent baby deaths: Scale of deaths at trust ‘not clear-cut’

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The boss of an NHS trust at the centre of concerns about preventable baby deaths has claimed the scale of the failings is not clearly defined.

Susan Acott, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals Trust, said there had only been “six or seven” avoidable deaths at the trust since 2011.

However, the BBC revealed on Monday that the trust previously accepted responsibility for at least 10.

Ms Acott said some of the baby deaths were “not as clear-cut”.

A series of failings came to light during the inquest of Harry Richford who died seven days after his birth at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in November 2017.

A coroner ruled Harry’s death was “wholly avoidable” and was contributed to by hospital neglect.

Ms Acott added she had not read a key report from 2015 drawing attention to maternity problems at the trust until December 2019.

The trust has apologised to the Richford family and Ms Acott says she has offered to meet them.

Ms Acott claims that from 2011 to 2020 there were “about six or seven” baby deaths that were viewed as preventable.

She says the other deaths were being investigated adding “these things aren’t always black and white”.

Ms Acott said: “It is not always quite as clear cut as that. That is not to say we shouldn’t learn and shouldn’t investigate.”

Despite the most recent preventable death taking place in November, Ms Acott said she believes the trust has improved.

She said: “I think it is about trying to persist. Are we going about trying to improve our clinical care, are we doing everything that’s expected of us. I think we are.”

She added: “It’s an organisation with a lot of issues and problems, of that there’s no doubt. We have to use the memory of Harry Richford to say we will learn, we will do better and we won’t let this happen again.”

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