Friday, 1 Mar 2024

Nursing chief 'didn't have enough information' to remove killer Letby from unit

The former nursing chief who oversaw the unit where Lucy Letby murdered seven babies says she ‘needed more information’ to be able to remove her.

Karen Rees was the head of nursing at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s urgent care division before retiring in March 2018, Sky News reports.

She’s been accused of failing to remove Letby from the neonatal unit despite staff concerns – but she says she was unable to because she ‘needed more information’.

Letby was also found guilty of attempting to murder six other infants between June 2015 and June 2016.

On June 25, 2016, Letby tried to kill a baby by injecting him with air.

Senior paediatrician Dr Stephen Brearey told her trial that the day before that incident, he told Ms Rees he and his colleagues were ‘not happy’ with Letby because of the number of baby deaths and collapses during her shifts.

Ms Rees has now released a statement saying she wasn’t given enough information to justify removing Letby from her duties.

She says Karen Townsend, the director of urgent care at the hospital, and Ravi Jayaram, a consultant who was the clinical lead for neonates and paediatrics, told her there were concerns about Letby’s clinical practices.

Ms Rees says she was told at this stage that Dr Brearey thought Letby should be removed from the neonatal unit.

The retired nursing chief says in her statement: ‘I immediately went to find Ravi Jayaram and Stephen Brearey in order to obtain more information about the allegations that had been made.

‘I went straight away as it was a Friday afternoon, and I was conscious that staff would be going home for the weekend.

‘I wanted to find out what the concerns were.’

She says she went to the office the two men shared but Dr Brearey wasn’t there.

Ms Rees continues: ‘Ravi wouldn’t give me any information to explain why Lucy Letby should be removed from the unit. He said nothing about air embolus, or over-feeding.

‘He did not even mention babies dying and Lucy Letby being present. He just asked for Lucy Letby to be removed from the neonatal unit.’

Ms Rees says she felt she ‘urgently’ needed to speak with Dr Brearey about concerns around Letby.

After she got hold of him, she explained to Dr Brearey that she needed more information before she could remove a nurse from the neonatal unit.

Ms Rees added: ‘Stephen Brearey was measured throughout. I said that if there were issues, then I needed to know what they were.

‘Despite that, he refused to give me any more information. He said that he had evidence, but he refused to show it to me.’

Ms Rees says she still doesn’t understand why Dr Brearey wouldn’t provide her with more information.

She said: ‘At no point did he say that he suspected she had been purposely harming babies.

‘If he had said that there had been 16 deaths, and that she was present for all of them, then my actions may well have differed.

‘If Stephen Brearey had given me whatever evidence he said he had, that may have meant that a further death could potentially have been prevented.’

It has also been claimed Dr Brearey asked Ms Rees if she would be happy if ‘something happened to any of the babies tomorrow?’, and she’s alleged to have said ‘yes’.

Ms Rees says the claim is ‘completely untrue’ and an ‘outrageous allegation to make’, and she’s ‘currently taking legal advice about the untrue allegations’.

Her statement directly contradicts the allegations made by Dr Brearey in court, who said: ‘She (Ms Rees) was familiar with our concerns already. I explained what had happened and I didn’t want nurse Letby to come back to work the following day or until this was all investigated properly.

‘Karen Rees said “no” to that and that there was no evidence.

‘I put it to her – was she happy to take responsibility for this decision, in view of the fact that myself and my consultant colleagues all wouldn’t be happy with nurse Letby going to work the following day?

‘She responded she was happy to take that responsibility.’

Dr Brearey and Dr Jayaram were contacted for comment.

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