A woman has been arrested on suspicion of murdering 8 babies and attempting to kill six others at the Countess of Chester Hospital as part of an investigation into 17 newborn deaths that occurred between March 2015 and July 2016.
The investigation is also covering 15 non-fatal collapses that it is believed may be linked to the newborn casualties.
The investigation began after the Countess of Chester Hospital was named as one of 21 hospitals by a government report.
The hospital had the highest rate of deaths amongst newborns for a trust of its size, with 1.91 deaths per 1000 live births compared 1.27 which is the national average.
At the time it was believed that the increased deaths may reflect systemic or institutional inefficiencies and failures at the policy level.
Countess of Chester Hospital: - Woman held in baby deaths probe https://t.co/g39KveEQZR - Clinical serial-killings don't suprise me: 'When Nurses Kill: & When Nurses Kill in Tax-Havens' https://t.co/2JQjNtJTIi— Stuart Syvret (@StuartSyvret) July 3, 2018
However, after a year of continuous review and work—where the death rate decreased but still remained incredibly high compared to the national average—staff at the hospital eventually asked the police to investigate when it became clear that there was no obvious explanation for the high rates of death.
Now police have revealed that an arrest has been made and that a woman who worked at the hospital as a healthcare professional has been charged with the murder of 8 newborns, and the attempted murder of 6 other children.
They have not revealed the woman’s identity, her role in the hospital, nor the method or motivation behind the murders. But they have revealed they are currently searching a residential property in relation to the deaths.
Meanwhile police spoke about sensitivity of the case saying that there were “no set timescales for this coming to a conclusion but we remain committed to carrying out a thorough investigation as soon as possible.
This is just heartbreaking. I can’t imagine what the families of these babies are going through. Countess of Chester Hospital: Woman held in baby deaths probe https://t.co/CZ14OdYLRn— Aaron Prior (@aaronprior) July 3, 2018
“Parents of all the babies are continuing to be kept fully updated and are being supported.
“This is an extremely difficult time and it is important to remember that there are bereaved families seeking answers as to what happened to their children.”
Hospital medical director Ian Harvey also spoke to the press and mentioned that asking the police to investigate the increased death rate had not been “something we did lightly, but we need to do everything we can to understand what has happened.” He also added that the neonatal unit was “safe to continue in its current form”.