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Nursing and Midwifery Council Criticised Over Furness Hospital Deaths

The Midwifery regulator has been criticised for taking ‘too long’ to take action when concerns were raised about midwives at Furness General Hospital in Barrow, Cumbria.

Between 2004 and 2013, eleven babies and one mother died at the hospital, and a Professional Standards Review has concluded that the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) did not react quick enough to concerns which were made from both police and families.  

An apology has been given from the NMC, and they have also stated that the approach they took was “unacceptable.”

Concerns were first raised back in 2008 when a 9-day old baby, Joshua Titcombe, tragically died from sepsis; 7 years later, in 2015, a ‘highly critical government-backed report’ stated that since then a “lethal mix” of failures at the hospital had led to further deaths.

The NMC has been criticised by the Professional Standards Authority (PSA) for taking 8 years to take action and begin fitness-to-practice hearings against some midwives at the hospital after concerns had been made. The PSA said that these delays meant that those midwives who were later struck off or suspended had been allowed to continue to practice, and that “Further avoidable deaths occurred whilst the NMC were considering complaints.”

Though there were no prosecutions brought from the police, three midwives were dismissed and one suspended from the hospital after the deaths. In the review it said that no evidence had been found that the NMC had acted upon information provided to it by Cumbria Police, regarding a total of 22 cases that had been investigated at the hospital.

Together, Carl Hendrickson, Liza Brady and James Titcombe, all of whom were affected by deaths from the hospital, said the report highlighted “the truly shocking scale of the NMC’s failure to respond properly to the serious concerns and detailed information provided to them relating to the safety of midwifery services at Furness General Hospital.”

They added, “We were particularly horrified that even when Cumbria Police directly raised significant issues, the NMC effectively ignored the information for almost two years.”

John Woodcock, Barrow and Furness MP said that the conduct of the NMC has “brought shame on the proud and vital profession it is supposed to represent.” The regulator has been told that it needs to “urgently review and improve” how it engages with patients and families who are registering complaints.

Jackie Smith, Chief Executive of the NMC, who has been in her current role for the past six years said that the NMC’s approach to the deaths had been “unacceptable” and that she was “truly sorry.” Ms Smith has announced that she will be leaving her post as Chief Executive in July this year.


BBC News. ‘Furness Hospital Baby Deaths: Midwifery Council Criticised.’ BBC News Online.

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