This site is intended for health professionals only

Read the latest issue online
Airbrushed out and ignored


Lucy Letby: Nurse found guilty of murder of premature babies

Lucy Letby: Nurse found guilty of murder of premature babies
Cheshire Police

Former nurse Lucy Letby has been found guilty of murdering several babies while working on the neonatal unit at Countess of Chester Hospital.

At Manchester Crown Court (18 August) the 33-year-old was found guilty of seven counts of murder and seven further counts of attempted murder between June 2015 and June 2016.

The court heard how Ms Letby had injected babies with air, poisoned them with insulin, and overfed them with milk.

During the 10-month trial, the defence claimed that there was no evidence to suggest Ms Letby had deliberately inflicted harm on any baby, citing ‘sub-optimal care’ in the hospital.

The prosecution claimed that Ms Letby was a competent nurse who knew exactly what she was doing, deliberately harming the babies in her care.

However, following 110 hours of deliberation, the jury dismissed Ms Letby’s version of the case, and found she was responsible for the deaths.

Ms Letby was found not guilty of two attempted murder charges.

She has been remanded into custody and is due to be sentenced at Manchester Crown Court.

Commenting on the verdict in the trial, Dame Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: ’Lucy Letby committed appalling crimes that were a terrible betrayal of the trust placed in her and our thoughts are with the families affected, who have experienced pain and suffering that few of us can imagine. 

‘Colleagues within the nursing profession and across the health service have been shocked and sickened to learn what she did, actions beyond belief to the nurses and staff working so hard to save lives and care for patients. 

‘On behalf of all of us I would like to express our profound apologies to the families for all they have been through.’

Suspicion surrounding Ms Letby first arose when the Countess of Chester Hospital Foundation Trust contacted Cheshire Constabulary in relation to a greater number of baby deaths and non-fatal collapses than would normally be expected.

As a result, the police launched an investigation into the maternity ward which ultimately identified Ms Letby as a suspect.

Deputy senior investigating officer, detective chief inspector Nicola Evans of Cheshire Constabulary, which arrested Ms Letby, said ‘there are no winners’ in the case.

‘Our focus right now is very much on the families of the babies. The compassion and strength shown by the parents – and wider family members – has been overwhelming.

‘The details of this case are truly crushing. A trained nurse responsible for caring and protecting tiny, premature babies; a person who was in a position of trust, she abused that trust in the most unthinkable way.’

In response to the guilty verdict, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Rob Behrens, said this was ‘one of the darkest crimes ever committed in our health services’.

He added that there were lessons to be learned: ‘Good leadership always listens, especially when it’s about patient safety. Poor leadership makes it difficult for people to raise concerns when things go wrong, even though complaints are vital for patient safety and to stop mistakes being repeated.

‘We need to see significant improvements to culture and leadership across the NHS so that the voices of staff and patients can be heard, both with regard to everyday pressures and mistakes and, very exceptionally, when there are warnings of real evil.’

 

See how our symptom tool can help you make better sense of patient presentations
Click here to search a symptom