Harry Richford: East Kent NHS hospital trust pleads guilty over 'wholly avoidable' death of seven-day-old baby

Harry’s parents, Tom and Sarah Richford, have spent years fighting for answers

An NHS trust has pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment after a baby boy died seven days after an emergency delivery.

An inquest found that the death of Harry Richford at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in November 2017 was “wholly avoidable”.

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Lawyers for the East Kent Hospitals Trust pleaded guilty to the charge at Folkestone Magistrates Court in Kent on Monday (19 April), after the trust admitted to failing to provide safe care and treatment to Harry and his mother, Sarah Richford, under the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations.

An NHS trust has pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care and treatment after a baby boy died seven days after an emergency delivery (Photo: Family handout)

Harry’s parents, Tom and Sarah Richford, have spent years fighting for answers and were both in court on Monday to hear the trust enter a guilty plea to the single amended charge.

District Judge Justin Barron told Mr and Mrs Richford that he had the power to order an unlimited fine against the trust. Sentencing will take place at the same court on 18 June.

Care for mothers and newborn babies at the trust has been criticised following a series of baby deaths, with reports that at least seven preventable baby deaths may have occurred at the trust since 2016.

Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the investigation into serious maternity failings at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, is now leading an independent review into East Kent Hospitals’ maternity services.

‘We’ve got some level of justice’

Ahead of the hearing, Mr Richford told the PA news agency: “At every hurdle it did seem that the hospital were trying to avoid scrutiny, they didn’t want to lose out on their reputation.

“So we kept having to fight and fight and fight, and eventually we’ve now got the inquests and the inquiries and the investigations that really mean that change should hopefully be more systemic and sustainable.”

Mrs Richford said: “We’ve got some level of justice that means that although Harry’s life was short, hopefully it’s made a difference and that other babies won’t die.”

Following the plea, East Kent Hospitals chief executive, Susan Acott, said in a statement:

“We are deeply sorry that we failed Harry, Sarah and the Richford family and apologise unreservedly for our failures in their care.

“We are determined to learn when things go wrong.

“Our midwives, our doctors and every member of our staff constantly strive to give good care every day.

“We have already made significant changes following Harry’s death and we will continue to do everything we can to learn from this tragedy.

“We are working closely with national maternity experts to make sure we are doing everything we can to make rapid and sustainable improvements.

“We have welcomed the independent investigation into maternity services in east Kent and we are doing everything in our power to assist and support the investigation.”

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