Compensation claims for Barrow NHS maternity failings prompt police action

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Nearly 40 compensation claims for deaths and injuries to maternity patients since 2002 have triggered a police investigation into the NHS trust running a Barrow hospital.

Maternity unit

According to managers at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria, civil claims since 2002 have totalled 37, with 24 having been made in the last 18 months and only 5 of which have been settled.

Following numerous deaths in the maternity unit, the hospital was sternly criticised for its poor standards of care by both the Care Quality Commission and Monitor, the organisations responsible for standards of care and for foundation trusts respectively.

A review of maternity services for Monitor published in February 2012 found "significant risk to mothers and their babies".

Cumbria police are also investigating the deaths. Det Chief Insp Doug Marshall said: "Our priority is uncovering the truth and conducting a full and thorough investigation on behalf of the families that have tragically lost their loved ones."

Noting the weight of information his team would need to examine, DCI Marshall added: "This scoping work is continuing to establish which cases may be included in the ongoing police investigation and which, if any, criminal acts have taken place."

The father of Joshua Titcombe, who died at the hospital in 2008, received the claims figures from the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay foundation trust under Freedom of Information legislation.

James Titcombe said that since the trust had admitted liability in Joshua's case, he was not among those taking action. However, he would be doing everything possible to ensure a proper investigation.

"It is a small maternity unit," Mr Titcombe said. "Are there any other maternity units in the country, let alone one as small as this, where there are that number of cases?"

On resigning in February, the trust's former chief executive Tony Halsall said "considerable progress" had been made on improving the situation.

Interim chief executive Eric Morton stressed this week that the 9 cases instigated in 2012 concerned earlier events.

"Due to the fact that these are individual cases and the majority are yet to reach some form of settlement, it would be inappropriate to comment further," he said.

Repeating the trust's regrets for failing maternity patients and their families in the past, Mr Morton noted there was still work to do. "But so far there have been no claims instigated due to incidents in maternity services that happened in 2012."

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