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Justice is being denied to too many families

Harry Richford's death underlines the need for the health secretary to bring back the national maternity safety training fund – and there are other issues that require urgent attention – The Independent reports. 

Harry Richford had not even been born before the NHS failed him. An inquest has concluded he was neglected by East Kent University Hospitals Trust in yet another maternity scandal to rock the NHS. His parents and grandparents have fought a tireless campaign against a wall of obfuscation and indifference from the NHS. In their pursuit of the truth they have exposed a maternity service that did not just fail Harry, but may have failed dozens of other families.

As with the family of baby Kate Stanton-Davies at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust, or Joshua Titcombe at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust, it has taken a family rather than the system to expose what was going wrong. It is known that there are about 1,000 cases a year of safety incidents in the NHS across England, including baby deaths, stillbirths and children left brain damaged by mistakes.

Last week, the charity Baby Lifeline, joined The Independent to call on the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to reinstate the axed maternity safety training fund. This small fund was used to train maternity staff across the country. Despite being shown to be effective, it was inexplicably scrapped after just one year. 

There are other issues that also need urgent attention. The inquest into Harry’s death, which concluded on Friday, lasted for almost three weeks. Without pro bono lawyers from Advocate, Brick Court Chambers and Arnold & Porter law firm, the family would have faced an uphill struggle. At present, families are not automatically entitled to legal aid at an inquest, yet the NHS employs its own army of lawyers who attend many inquests and can overwhelm bereaved families in a legal battle they are ill-equipped to fight. Even the chief coroner, Mark Lucraft QC, has called for this inequality of legal backing to end, but the government has yet to take action.

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Source: The Independent, 26 January 2020



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