Publication reference: PRN00719
- All integrated care board and NHS Trust:
- chief executives
- chief operating officers
- medical directors
- clinical directors
- chief nurses
- heads of primary care
- directors of medical education
- Primary care networks:
- clinical directors
- NHS England regional:
- chief nurses
- medical directors
- directors of primary care and community services
- directors of commissioning
- workforce leads
- postgraduate deans
- heads of school
- workforce, training and education regional directors/regional heads of nursing
Verdict in the trial of Lucy Letby
We are writing to you today following the outcome of the trial of Lucy Letby.
Lucy Letby committed appalling crimes that were a terrible betrayal of the trust placed in her, and our thoughts are with all the families affected, who have suffered pain and anguish that few of us can imagine.
Colleagues across the health service have been shocked and sickened by her actions, which are beyond belief for staff working so hard across the NHS to save lives and care for patients and their families.
On behalf of the whole NHS, we welcome the independent inquiry announced by the Department of Health and Social Care into the events at the Countess of Chester and will cooperate fully and transparently to help ensure we learn every possible lesson from this awful case.
NHS England is committed to doing everything possible to prevent anything like this happening again, and we are already taking decisive steps towards strengthening patient safety monitoring.
The national roll-out of medical examiners since 2021 has created additional safeguards by ensuring independent scrutiny of all deaths not investigated by a coroner and improving data quality, making it easier to spot potential problems.
This autumn, the new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework will be implemented across the NHS – representing a significant shift in the way we respond to patient safety incidents, with a sharper focus on data and understanding how incidents happen, engaging with families, and taking effective steps to improve and deliver safer care for patients.
We also wanted to take this opportunity to remind you of the importance of NHS leaders listening to the concerns of patients, families and staff, and following whistleblowing procedures, alongside good governance, particularly at trust level.
We want everyone working in the health service to feel safe to speak up – and confident that it will be followed by a prompt response.
Last year we rolled out a strengthened Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) policy. All organisations providing NHS services are expected to adopt the updated national policy by January 2024 at the latest.
That alone is not enough. Good governance is essential. NHS leaders and Boards must ensure proper implementation and oversight. Specifically, they must urgently ensure:
- All staff have easy access to information on how to speak up.
- Relevant departments, such as Human Resources, and Freedom to Speak Up Guardians are aware of the national Speaking Up Support Scheme and actively refer individuals to the scheme.
- Approaches or mechanisms are put in place to support those members of staff who may have cultural barriers to speaking up or who are in lower paid roles and may be less confident to do so, and also those who work unsociable hours and may not always be aware of or have access to the policy or processes supporting speaking up. Methods for communicating with staff to build healthy and supporting cultures where everyone feels safe to speak up should also be put in place.
- Boards seek assurance that staff can speak up with confidence and whistleblowers are treated well.
- Boards are regularly reporting, reviewing and acting upon available data.
While the CQC is primarily responsible for assuring speaking up arrangements, we have also asked Integrated Care Boards to consider how all NHS organisations have accessible and effective speaking up arrangements.
All NHS organisations are reminded of their obligations under the Fit and Proper Person requirements not to appoint any individual as a Board director unless they fully satisfy all FPP requirements – including that they have not been responsible for, been privy to, contributed to, or facilitated any serious misconduct or mismanagement (whether lawful or not). The CQC can take action against any organisation that fails to meet these obligations.
NHS England has recently strengthened the Fit and Proper Person Framework by bringing in additional background checks, including a board member reference template, which also applies to board members taking on a non-board role.
This assessment will be refreshed annually and, for the first time, recorded on Electronic Staff Record so that it is transferable to other NHS organisations as part of their recruitment processes.
Lucy Letby’s appalling crimes have shocked not just the NHS, but the nation. We know that you will share our commitment to doing everything we can to prevent anything like this happening again. The actions set out in this letter, along with our full co-operation with the independent inquiry to ensure every possible lesson is learned, will help us all make the NHS a safer place.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive
Sir David Sloman, Chief Operating Officer, NHS England
Dame Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer, England
Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director, NHS England