Jeremy Hunt calls for independent inquiry into avoidable baby deaths at NHS hospitals

Jeremy Hunt has called for an inquiry into the safety of maternity services amid reports of avoidable baby deaths at NHS hospitals.

The former health secretary raised the issue of maternity services following scandals at the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust and the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.

Mr Hunt, who challenged Boris Johnson in the Conservative leadership contest, told the Independent that the case is becoming “unanswerable” for an independent inquiry into maternity care safety.

He is now the chair the Health and Social Care Select Committee, which scrutinises the Department of Health and Social Care and associated agencies and bodies.

The former foreign secretary said: “The question that needs answering is: why do these mistakes appear to be repeating themselves?

“Why is it that despite enormous effort, we still appear in parts of the NHS to have a defensive culture when things go wrong?”

It comes after a coroner found the death of a seven-day-old baby at a hospital operated by East Kent Hospitals was “wholly avoidable” following a series of failings.

Harry Richford died a week after he was born in November 2017 at the Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital in Margate.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out a no-notice inspection on the trust after it had admitted it had “not always provided the right standard of care” in its maternity services.

A further 26 cases are now being investigated at the trust, according to health minister Nadine Dorries.

Ms Dorries also confirmed that some 900 cases dating back 40 years are being looked at for the Ockenden Review into baby deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.

Mr Hunt, the MP for South West Surrey, said the independent inquiry should investigate if the safety of mothers and their babies has been “compromised in any part of the NHS” by hospitals pursuing a “normal birth” ideology.

He told the Independent: “It may well be that what the NHS is doing at the moment is sufficient, but it might not be and I think we need to look at this, independently, to reassure the public and say what is being done is sufficient or we need to do more.”

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