Health executives ‘potentially facilitated’ mass murderer, says Indian-origin doctor about UK baby-killer nurse

One of the key names among the medical practitioners who raised concerns about Lucy Letby, the British nurse convicted of killing babies, is that of Dr Ravi Jayaram, Indian-origin paediatrician and an early whistle-blower in the case. In a Facebook post expressing his frustration, he has said: “There are people out there now, still earning six figure sums of tax-payers money or retired with their gold-plated pensions, who need to stand up in public to explain why they did not want to listen and do the right thing, to acknowledge that their actions potentially facilitated a mass-murderer and to apologise to the families involved in all of this.”

Senior doctors such as Dr Ravi Jayaram held several meetings with hospital executives to voice their concerns about the baby deaths. Photo courtesy: Facebook/Dr Ravi Jayaram

Lucy Letby, a British neonatal nurse, was found guilty yesterday of murdering seven babies — five boys and two girls — and trying to kill six more newborns at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Cheshire, England.

Press Trust of India quoted Dr Jayaram as saying in a televised interview, on ITV News, that “I do genuinely believe that there are four or five babies who could be going to school now who aren’t”. Speaking after the Letby verdict, the doctor was referring to the delay in action taken by health executives.

He said on television that concerns about unusual baby deaths were first raised by consultant doctors in June 2015, when three infants died. Senior doctors such as Jayaram held several meetings with hospital executives to voice their concerns.

However, their concerns were ignored for a long period, and it was not until April 2017 that the National Health Service (NHS) trust allowed the doctors to meet with a police officer. Finally, an investigation could begin.

“The police, after listening to us for less than 10 minutes, realised that this is something that they had to be involved with. I could have punched the air,” said Dr Jayaram in the interview.

The nurse’s trial and the guilty verdict has put the focus on the highly paid executives who tried to brush the doctors’ concerns aside, in order to maintain the hospital’s image. Dr Jayaram said in his Facebook post: “My colleagues and I have lived this for the last 8 years and the period of the trial has been the most difficult part of this….”

Demanding accountability, the post added: “There are bad people in all walks of life and many of them are very good at hiding in plain sight. There are also people in highly paid positions of responsibility in healthcare whose job it is to ensure patient safety.”

Expressing relief that “the often-maligned criminal justice system has worked properly this time”, the doctor’s post said that the public deserved answers. He wrote that the “safety of patients should come above any risk of reputational damage”, but in this case, the right decisions were not taken.

Moving on to the problem faced by people who are the first to reveal the existence of a serious problem, the paediatrician wrote: “There is a long history of whistle-blowers who raise concerns in the NHS not only being ignored but then being portrayed as the problem, sometimes to the point of their careers being destroyed.”

Dr Jayaram said that a “fundamental change in the culture and governance of NHS institutions” was needed, and that the change had to start right now.

‘She perverted her learning and weaponised her craft’

The Lucy Letby trial began in October 2022 at the Manchester Crown Court. During the trial, it was revealed by the Crown Prosecution Service (PCS) that the nurse had used various methods to kill the newborn babies, such as injection of air and insulin into their bloodstream; infusion of air into their gastrointestinal tract; force feeding an overdose of milk or fluids; impact-type trauma.

Also read: Lucy Letby: British nurse found guilty of murdering seven babies, British govt orders independent inquiry

“Lucy Letby sought to deceive her colleagues and pass off the harm she caused as nothing more than a worsening of each baby’s existing vulnerability. In her hands, innocuous substances like air, milk, fluids — or medication like insulin — would become lethal. She perverted her learning and weaponised her craft to inflict harm, grief and death,” said Pascale Jones of the CPS.

Letby was first arrested in July 2018 and subsequently charged in November 2020. “The details of this case are truly crushing. A trained nurse responsible for caring and protecting tiny, premature babies; a person who was in a position of trust, she abused that trust in the most unthinkable way,” said Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Evans, the Deputy Senior Investigating Officer.

—With inputs from the Press Trust of India