Harry Richford: NHS trust pleads guilty to two charges over death of seven-day-old baby

19 April 2021, 11:05 | Updated: 19 April 2021, 14:12

An NHS Trust has pleaded guilty to failing to provide safe care following the death of a newborn baby.

Harry Richford died seven days after his emergency delivery at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate in November 2017. An inquest previously found his death was "wholly avoidable".

His parents Tom and Sarah Richford have spent years campaigning for answers about why their son died and also fighting for better maternity safety.

The prosecution, which is the first of its kind, was brought by the Care Quality Commission.

The East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust has admitted a charge of failing to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm under the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

After Harry's mother went into labour concerns were raised about Harry's heartbeat.

A decision was made that he needed to be delivered but it wasn't until an hour later that an attempt to deliver him using forceps was made, and a further half an hour until he was born by emergency caesarean.

The inquest found that Harry should have been delivered within 30 minutes of the decision being made and that the locum doctor who attempted the forceps delivery was inexperienced and not properly assessed.

Harry suffered irreversible brain damage and died a week later.

Harry's mother said the guilty plea in court shows the care she and Harry received was sub-standard, adding the family now have "some sort of justice for what happened".

Sarah Richford told the Press Association: "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."

"If somebody had done this before Harry was born he may be alive today," she added.

Following the court hearing today Harry's family issued this statement:

"This plea is welcomed as it will avoid all the awful details having to be replayed in public once more.

"For the period of 2020 following Harry's inquest, neonatal deaths have fallen in the Trust by 55% and still births by 20% compared to the previous 7-year average.

"This proves that with the right level of focus, leadership and attention, baby's lives can be saved.

"Harry's life and our sacrifice has made a significant difference here in East Kent and it must be maintained."

East Kent Hospitals chief executive, Susan Acott, said: "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."