Sands and Tommy’s JPU: Government response to East Kent report gives welcome detail on action

The Government has set out its full response to last year’s Independent Investigation into East Kent Maternity and Neonatal Services – an investigation which found that women, babies and their families had suffered significant harm because of poor care.

The investigation – led by Dr Bill Kirkup and commissioned by NHS England - highlighted serious failings and missed opportunities to improve.

This week’s response from the Department of Health and Social Care provides welcome detail on the range of different actions being taken across Government and the NHS to address recommendations made in the report.

Upon publication of the report last year, in partnership with Sands, we urged the NHS to commit to learning, transparency and culture change: bereaved families should not have to fight to highlight systemic failings in maternity services before action is taken.  

The Government’s initial response in March lacked detail on practical steps the Government was taking or will take for change.

A key part of this week’s full response is the establishment of a new National Oversight Group, chaired by Minister for Mental Health and the Women’s Health Strategy Maria Caulfield. The group will “look across maternity and neonatal improvement programmes and the implementation of recommendations from this and other maternity reviews.”  

Head of the Sands & Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit Rob Wilson says:

"The establishment of a ministerial oversight group is a welcome step. But, sadly, we know that recommendations from previous reviews over many years have not led to the fundamental change needed to ensure safe care for all. For this group to be a success it must be able to direct meaningful change, with clear lines of accountability for making progress on these recommendations.”

The Government’s response highlights areas where they have already engaged with the voluntary sector and patient groups, including the Maternity Consortium. Led by Tommy’s and Sands, with members National Maternity Voices, Pregnancy and Baby Charities Network, Five X More CIC, Muslim Women’s Network UK and LGBT Mummies, the Consortium shares our expertise to reduce inequalities for families throughout the pregnancy journey.  

The Government has appointed Dr Bill Kirkup, who led the East Kent investigation, to “work with healthcare partners to help ensure teams in maternity and neonatal care across England can work together more collaboratively so the best quality, compassionate care is provided”.  

Addressing these issues is hugely important to ensuring safe care, which have been highlighted in a number of reviews.  

Rob Wilson continues:

“Moving forward, it is important that there is a continued commitment to listening to the voices and experiences of bereaved parents at every level. This is vital for improving care in the future.”

“The Sands & Tommy’s JPU will be looking in more detail at the range of different activities set out in the response from DHSC. There must be continued transparency on progress, and a commitment to evaluating and reviewing the impact of different steps that are being taken.”