The ‘culture’ of the NHS is to be considered within the statutory inquiry into the murders and attempted murders committed by former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.
The government has this month confirmed the inquiry will cover three broad areas: the experiences of the parents of the babies; the conduct of clinical and non-clinical staff and management at Countess of Chester Hospital, where the crimes took place, as well as the governance and escalation process in relation to concerns raised; and the effectiveness of governance, external scrutiny and professional regulation, including consideration of NHS culture.
Steve Barclay, health and social care secretary, published the inquiry’s terms of reference after consultation with Lady Justice Thirlwall, the inquiry’s chair, who has engaged with the families and other stakeholders.
The government confirmed in August 2023 that the inquiry would be placed on a statutory footing. This means it will have legal powers to compel witnesses, including former and current staff of Countess of Chester Hospital, to give evidence.
In August, Letby was sentenced to a whole life order after being found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others while working at the hospital in 2015 and 2016. The jury for the trial at Manchester Crown Court was unable to reach verdicts for six further counts of attempted murder, although Letby is to face retrial for one outstanding charge.
The terms of the inquiry will not cover the jury’s verdicts and will make no findings regarding liability in civil proceedings.
Mr Barclay said: ‘Losing a child is the greatest sorrow any parent can experience, and I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and suffering experienced by the families affected by Lucy Letby’s horrific crimes.
‘We have a duty to get them the answers they deserve, to hold people to account where they need to be, and to make sure lessons are learned.’
Earlier this month, Cheshire Constabulary announced that Countess of Chester Hospital was the subject of an investigation into corporate manslaughter in relation to Letby’s crimes.