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'No-one joined the dots' - grandad who exposed an NHS scandal

More than 200 families in south-east England will learn today the results of a major inquiry into the maternity care they received from a hospital trust. The investigation into East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust follows dogged campaigning by one determined bereaved grandfather.

Derek Richford's grandson Harry died at East Kent Hospitals after his life support system was withdrawn.

Sixty one-year-old Derek had never campaigned for anything in his life. His initial approach was to wait for East Kent Hospitals Trust to investigate the death, as it had promised.

However, one nagging issue that was to become central to Derek's view of the trust, was the hospital's continual refusal to inform the coroner of Harry's death. The family repeatedly requested it, but the trust said it was unnecessary as it knew the cause, namely the removal of the life support system.

The hospital also recorded Harry's death as "expected" - again because his life support system had been withdrawn. On both points, the family were left confused and increasingly angry.

In early March 2018, some four months after Harry's death, the family finally received the outcome of the trust's internal investigation - known as the Root Cause Analysis (RCA). The RCA indicated multiple errors had been made in Harry and Sarah's care and treatment, and his death was "potentially avoidable".

Prior to the meeting, Derek wrote to the Kent coroner's office outlining in general the circumstances of Harry's case, asking if that was the type they would expect to be notified of. The email response from the coroner's office was clear. It said: "Based on the facts you have presented, this death should have been reported to the coroner."

Despite this, at the meeting with the trust, the lead investigator into Harry's death told the family: "If we have a clear cause of death by and large we do not involve the coroner."

The family's insistence eventually paid off - five weeks after that meeting, the trust informed the coroner of Harry's death.

While his son and daughter-in-law started trying to recover from the trauma of losing Harry, Derek turned his attention to investigating East Kent, one of the largest hospital trusts in England.

"When I started investigating what was going on with Harry, it was very much like peeling back an onion. 'Hang on a minute, that can't be right, that doesn't add up.' Ever since I was a small kid, justice has been so important to me.

"What I found was that, up to that point, no-one had ever joined the dots. And that's so important. I think this had to happen, someone had to do it. There will be families before us that wish they did it. We will be saving a level of families after us."

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Source: BBC News, 19 October 2022


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