Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Government agrees scope of inquiry into Lucy Letby’s crimes [October 2023]

The press release issued by the Department of Health and Social Care on 19 October 2023.

Health and Social Care Secretary publishes terms of reference for inquiry following murders and attempted murders committed by former neonatal nurse Lucy Letby.

  • Inquiry will look at experiences of families of all the babies named in the indictment; conduct of staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital, part of the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; effectiveness of NHS management and governance structures; and NHS culture
  • Inquiry has powers to compel witnesses to produce evidence and is chaired by Lady Justice Thirlwall, one of the country’s most senior and experienced judges

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has today (19 October 2023) published the terms of reference for the statutory inquiry following the horrific murders and attempted murders committed by Lucy Letby.

The inquiry is being set up at pace to ensure vital lessons are learned and provide answers to the parents and families impacted as soon as possible.

Letby was convicted of murdering 7 babies and attempting to kill 6 others at the Countess of Chester Hospital. She committed these crimes while working as a neonatal nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital between June 2015 and June 2016.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

Losing a child is the greatest sorrow any parent can experience, and I cannot begin to imagine the hurt and suffering experienced by the families affected by Lucy Letby’s horrific crimes.

We have a duty to get them the answers they deserve, to hold people to account where they need to be, and to make sure lessons are learned.

These terms of reference have been agreed following engagement with the families, and I am confident Lady Justice Thirlwall will ensure their voices are heard as the inquiry gets underway.

The terms of reference are set by the Health and Social Care Secretary after consultation with the chair, who has engaged with the families and other stakeholders.

The inquiry will cover 3 broad areas:

  • the experiences of the parents of the babies named in the indictment
  • the conduct of clinical and non-clinical staff and management, as well as governance and escalation processes in relation to concerns being raised about Letby and whether these structures contributed to the failure to protect babies from her
  • the effectiveness of governance, external scrutiny and professional regulation in keeping babies in hospital safe, including consideration of NHS culture

It will not review the jury’s verdicts and will make no findings regarding liability in civil proceedings.

The government confirmed in August 2023 that the inquiry would be placed on a statutory footing. This means it will have legal powers to compel witnesses, including former and current staff of the Countess of Chester, to give evidence. It also means evidence must be heard in public, unless the chair decides otherwise.

Lady Justice Thirlwall is one of the country’s most senior judges and currently sits in the Court of Appeal. She has many years of experience as a senior judge and barrister.

As chair, she will decide on the order in which the inquiry considers issues and how to manage the inquiry alongside any live police investigation and any criminal proceedings – whether that be retrials, trials, or an appeal.

The chair will provide a final report, and if appropriate, interim reports as soon as practically possible.

The inquiry is currently setting up its infrastructure at pace so that it can begin its investigations.

Read the full Thirlwall Inquiry terms of reference.