he prosecution’s lead medical expert in the Lucy Letby case has said hospital executives who failed to act on concerns about the serial killer nurse should be investigated for corporate manslaughter.
Retired consultant paediatrician Dewi Evans says he will write to Cheshire Constabulary to ask it to investigate “grossly negligent” bosses for not acting on fears about Letby while she was on a killing spree, the Observer reported.
Bosses also blamed other NHS services for a number of the unexplained deaths – and in a review in May 2016 said there was “no evidence whatsoever against [Letby] other than coincidence”, the newspaper reported.
Letby, 33, was convicted on Friday of the murder of seven babies and the attempted murder of six more during her shifts on the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016.
Consultants who raised concerns about Letby as far back as 2015 have said babies could have been saved if hospital management had listened and acted sooner.
The Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit head consultant, Dr Stephen Brearey, first raised Letby’s association with an increase in baby collapses in June 2015.
He told the Guardian that deaths could arguably have been avoided from as early as February 2016 if executives had “responded appropriately” to an urgent meeting request from concerned doctors.
Police were only contacted in 2017.
Another consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram, continued to express concerns to management as more sudden and unexpected collapses followed.
Both consultants spoke of hospital executives’ reluctance to involve the police for fear of damaging the trust’s reputation.
Dr Evans was tasked by Cheshire Police to look at a series of collapses on the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital in 2015 and 2016.
He said that bosses could have helped to avert three murders if they acted with greater urgency on concerns.
He told the Observer: “They were grossly negligent.
“I shall write to Cheshire police and ask them, from what I have heard following the end of the trial, that I believe that we should now investigate a number of managerial people in relation to issues of corporate manslaughter.
“I think this is a matter that demands an investigation into corporate manslaughter.”
Dr Evans said the police should also investigate the hospital in “relation to criminal negligence”.
He added: “Failing to act was grossly irresponsible – let’s make it as clear as that.
“We are talking about a serious emergency. It’s grossly irresponsible.”
It comes as the former chair of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust claimed that the board was “misled” by hospital executives.
Sir Duncan Nichol said the board was told there was “no criminal activity pointing to any one individual” despite concerns, BBC News reported.
The board was not made aware of the rise in incidents on the neonatal unit until July 2016 and at a meeting it then agreed for the deaths to be externally investigated, according to the report.
Sir Duncan told the BBC: “I believe that the board was misled in December 2016 when it received a report on the outcome of the external, independent case reviews.
“We were told explicitly that there was no criminal activity pointing to any one individual, when in truth the investigating neonatologist had stated that she had not had the time to complete the necessary in-depth case reviews.”
In response, the trust’s then chief executive Tony Chambers reportedly said that “what was shared with the board was honest and open and represented our best understanding of the outcome of the reviews at the time”.
Dr Susan Gilby, another former chief executive of the trust, told the Sunday Times that a full public inquiry was required.
An independent inquiry into Letby’s crime was announced by the Government on Friday.
But Slater and Gordon, which is representing two of the families involved, said that a non-statutory inquiry “is not good enough” and needs to have a “statutory basis to have real teeth”.
Dr Gilby said she knew with a week of starting at the trust in 2018 that police needed to be involved, according to the Sunday Times.
She also told BBC News that she shared concerns the board may have been misled.
Sir Duncan and Dr Gilby reportedly commissioned consultancy firm Facere Melius in 2019 to investigate the trust’s handling of the Letby allegations but this has still not been published.
Police said they are reviewing the care of 4,000 babies who were admitted to the Countess of Chester – and also Liverpool Women’s Hospital when Letby had two work placements – going as far back as 2012.
Letby is due to be sentenced on Monday but the serial killer indicated she will not take part in the hearing at Manchester Crown Court.
Dr Nigel Scawn, medical director at the Countess of Chester Hospital, said on Friday: “Since Lucy Letby worked at our hospital, we have made significant changes to our services and I want to provide reassurance to every patient that may access our services that they can have confidence in the care that they will receive.”