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Letby inquiry: Former nurse director among ‘core participants’

The former nursing director at the hospital where Lucy Letby murdered seven babies will be among the ‘core participants’ of the Thirlwall Inquiry.

The inquiry, chaired by Lady Justice Thirlwall, will investigate how Letby was able to commit the murders and attempt six others while she worked as a neonatal nurse at Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in 2015 and 2016.

This week, Alison Kelly, who was director of nursing and quality at the trust during the time of Letby’s crimes, was announced as one of 10 core participants in the inquiry.

Also named were former Countess of Chester chief executive Tony Chambers, former medical director Ian Harvey and former human resources director Sue Hodkinson.

Ms Kelly and Mr Harvey were among the senior staff at the trust who were accused of failing to act when clinicians first raised concerns about Letby.

How managers responded to such concerns is one of the areas due to be investigated by the Thirlwall Inquiry.

A number of organisations are also on the list as core participants, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), NHS England, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Department of Health and Social Care and Countess of Chester itself.

Mugshot of Lucy Letby

Lucy Letby’s police mugshot

Letby was given a whole life prison order in August 2023 for the murders and attempted murders, which happened between June 2015 and June 2016.

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She continues to claim her innocence and is seeking an appeal. In December, the NMC announced it would formally strike her off its professional register.

Ms Kelly has also been referred to the NMC. The referral was paused, on the request of police, while the criminal investigation into Letby was underway but has since been resumed.

The Thirlwall Inquiry is expected to start hearing evidence later this year.

More than a dozen other organisations, beyond those named as core participants, have been issued Rule 9 requests for evidence which will be used by the inquiry.

These include the Royal College of Nursing, the Health Services Safety Investigations Body, the office of the senior coroner for Cheshire and the National Guardian’s Office.

According to the draft terms of reference, the inquiry will cover the experiences of the families of Letby’s victims, the conduct of those working at the hospital, and the effectiveness of NHS management, external scrutiny and professional regulation in keeping babies safe.

In November, Lady Thirlwall also announced that, as part of her investigation, all nurses, midwives, doctors and managers in hospitals with neonatal units in England would be anonymously surveyed on the culture of their units.

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