Police investigating the suspicious deaths of babies at a UK hospital are continuing to question a children’s nurse after being granted permission to keep her in custody.
Lucy Letby, from Chester, was arrested by detectives investigating multiple child deaths at the Countess of Chester hospital’s neonatal unit in 2015-16.
The investigation was widened on Wednesday to a second hospital. Liverpool women’s NHS trust confirmed it was cooperating with the inquiry. Letby, 28, trained at Liverpool Women’s hospital.
Letby, who had worked at the hospital in Chester, Cheshire, for seven years and had been training to work with babies in intensive care, was arrested on Tuesday as part of an investigation into 17 deaths and 15 non-fatal collapses of babies between March 2015 and July 2016. After her arrest police were also seen at her parents’ home in Hereford.
Kate Walker, from Chester, whose baby had been cared for by Letby, said she had been “rather shocked” when she saw that the nurse had been arrested.
Walker’s son was born prematurely at 27 weeks in February 2013. He spent a month in the neonatal unit at the Countess of Chester.
The 36-year-old finance worker said: “We were in the neonatal for a month before we moved to Alder Hey and it was actually Lucy who pushed for us to be transferred because he was still very ill and she didn’t want him to be discharged.
“The whole time I was there I can’t fault them. They were busy, you couldn’t have long conversations with them or anything, but I can’t fault the treatment of myself or my son.”
Walker’s son, who is now five, was on a ventilator and needed round-the-clock care after his lungs collapsed and his heart rate dropped.
“I can’t say anything negative about her,” Walker said. “She supported me and she pushed for him to be transferred and only discharged when he was better.
“She told me every step of the way what was happening. I couldn’t be at the hospital 24/7 because I also had a 20-month-old daughter at home but I never felt like I couldn’t trust them.”
Walker said she was grateful to Letby, a University of Chester graduate, for getting her son transferred to Alder Hey children’s hospital in Liverpool for further treatment.
She said: “I was rather shocked when I saw her picture. My son could have had more complications if it wasn’t for her pushing for him to be sent to Alder Hey. So I am grateful for that. And he is now a thriving five-year-old and he has got no lasting damage, he hasn’t had any trouble since he came out.”
A report in May by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said staffing at the hospital’s neonatal unit, which reported a “higher than usual” number of baby deaths, was inadequate.
The review found no definitive explanation for an increase in mortality rates, but identified significant gaps in medical and nursing rotas, poor decision making and insufficient senior cover.
Walker said: “They have got a really hard job. It was very busy in that department when we were there. They were like headless chickens. They were under immense pressure, they all were.”
A spokesperson for Cheshire police said that a woman arrested in connection with the investigation into infant mortalities at the Countess of Chester hospital remained in custody. They confirmed that detectives had been granted an extension to question her.