This is such a deeply disturbing case. One of the most horrifying scandals to ever hit the NHS. A neonatal nurse killed seven babies and attempted to murder six more. The perpetrator being a nurse is causing our nurse and midwife members, and us in the CMF Nurses & Midwives team, real grief.
First, we’d like to start by extending our heartfelt sympathy and compassion to the families involved.
I myself (Pippa) have had personal experience of two of my own babies being born extremely prematurely and having months on neonatal units. I know first-hand how helpless and vulnerable you already feel as a parent, just having to trust your baby into the hands of doctors and nurses, especially when you have to go home and leave them in hospital. It’s unimaginable that one of those you trust, a nurse, can act in such an evil way and murder your baby. Neonatal nurses are charged with caring and often saving the lives of the smallest and most vulnerable people – newborn babies. As one parent of two of the baby victims disbelievingly said, ‘a nurse is someone supposed to protect them’.
It has caused unspeakable pain to these dear grieving families, who we are praying for. Let’s also be praying for the anxious parents of babies currently in neonatal units across our land that they would get quality care and have their trust restored in the doctors and nurses caring for their little ones.
The nurses we know are also reeling. The Chief Nursing Officer for England reports nursing staff across the NHS are ‘shocked and sickened’ to learn of Lucy Letby’s crimes. They have struck to the very heart of nurses’ responsibility to ‘do no harm’.
Nurses tend to enter this profession because they are caring and compassionate people. Remember how we saw during the pandemic the overwhelming majority of nurses coming to work, sometimes putting their own health at risk, because they cared deeply for the people in their care and their families.
Lucy Letby is, thankfully, a rare anomaly to what the core of nursing is; she is an extreme exception. Nevertheless, she was able to get away with the repeated murder of those under her care and understandably, it left nurses, and indeed all healthcare professionals, deeply shocked.
At the same time, there’s been great damage to the public trust in nurses who before had a privileged position of trust in society. The Guardian newspaper on 22 August stated that ‘the nursing profession faces a long task to reassure families and patients that crimes and apparent failings will not be repeated’.
Nursing is already a hard profession to be in; it’s made all the harder when working in an environment of suspicion and distrust. We are aware this is especially tough on neonatal nurses and doctors, on whom the spotlight is focused, and we want to particularly pray for and support our members working in this field.
Finally, it highlighted the hopelessness some NHS staff feel about speaking up about issues in their workplaces; that it is ‘futile’ and will result in no change. Ongoing staff shortages that aren’t addressed, and the resulting feelings of being unsafe in our clinical practice, adds to this sense of hopelessness.
In Lucy’s case, concerns were first raised in 2015; why wasn’t she found out earlier? Hospital management dismissed the concerns of seven hospital consultants; indeed, they were disciplined for raising these concerns.
There are big questions about the accountability of the hospital managers and executives who reportedly dismissed the concerns of the doctors, seemingly in the name of protecting the reputation of the hospital. There is now a call for the individual executives involved to face justice for their inaction, as well as wider calls for hospital managers to be independently regulated in the same way that doctors and nurses are. It’s terrifying to think that this culture of silencing and dismissing whistle-blowers may be currently allowing all sorts of scandals and malpractices to continue in the NHS. As healthcare professionals, we can – and must – speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Not least, we have a biblical mandate as Christians to speak up for justice. Let’s support each other as, together, we seek to change the parts of the NHS culture that need seriously redeeming. And let’s work on modelling good listening to our colleagues and respectful interdisciplinary relationships.
We can thank God that Lucy Letby has been brought to justice by the court this week and jailed for life. As Christians, we can take further comfort that God is justice, and that one day, Letby will also be held accountable, facing judgment by God himself, and the victims and their families will see true justice served.
We are with you at this hard time. We are also troubled and grieved. There are no easy answers, and it is at times like this that we especially need each other, a supportive Christian community, to talk things through, to listen, and to pray.
Our CMF Wellbeing service is ready and willing to extend care, time, and a listening ear to you. We would invite members to e-mail us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Please head your enquiry ‘#Wellbeing‘ and do leave contact numbers for a call back for prayer or conversation.
The CMF Nurses & Midwives Team