Former health secretary Jeane Freeman has backed demands for more regulation of non-clinical NHS executives in the wake of serial killer Lucy Letby's crimes.

Last week, a jury at Manchester Crown Court found the nurse guilty of seven counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder during her time working in a neonatal unit in Chester

She was also found not guilty of two further counts of attempted murder.

One of the most upsetting aspects of the case is that concerns about Letby were raised with bosses at the hospital two years before they called in police.

Whistleblowers have said babies could have survived had executives acted sooner.

READ MORE: Lucy Letby convicted of murdering seven babies

The Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit head consultant, Dr Stephen Brearey, first raised Letby’s association with an increase in baby collapses in June 2015.

He told the Guardian that deaths could arguably have been avoided from as early as February 2016 had managers at the hospital “responded appropriately.”

Around seven senior clinicians eventually raised concerns about Letby.

However, police were only contacted in 2017.

Dr Brearey and another consultant, Dr Ravi Jayaram were even ordered to enter a mediation process with the nurse.

Both consultants have said executives at the hospital were reluctant to involve the police for fear of damaging the trust’s reputation.

The Herald: Lucy Letby has been found guilty of murder

Over the weekend, the British Medical Association (BMA), the professional body for doctors repeated their call for tighter regulation of NHS managers.

In a statement, they said: “ It is vital that any inquiry looks carefully at how concerns of the most senior doctors were handled and able to be dismissed, which perpetuated this horrific and catastrophic series of events.

“The BMA has been clear that the NHS and the whole healthcare system must have an open culture where doctors are listened to and can be confident in speaking out.

“We have long called for non-clinical managers in the NHS and other health service providers to be regulated, in line with the manner in which clinical staff are by professional bodies.

“Our thoughts go out to the families and staff involved in this heart-breaking case. We must now leave no stone unturned to make sure this can never happen again.”

READ MORE: NHS Highland: From a bullying scandal to 'healing process'

Ms Freeman told The Herald that there needed to be more regulation in Scotland and across the UK than there currently is. 

"Doctors, nurses, anaesthetists all have professional regulatory bodies because of the vital — literally life and death — responsibilities they carry.

"They have a professional code to follow.

"We don’t have that for senior, non-clinically qualified executives or managers in the NHS, but they also carry significant responsibilities for patients and patient safety.  

"We need to look seriously at what might be the comparable approach with this group of very senior NHS staff." 

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton agreed. He said: "I think everyone who has followed the stories that emerged from the Lucy Letby case were shocked at what they heard.

"The Scottish Government should explore whether the current regulatory arrangements are sufficient to ensure that such a case can never happen here."

Following last week's verdict, the UK Government announced a non-statutory independent inquiry.

The Scottish Government told The Herald they would be paying close attention to the findings.

A spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with the families affected by these appalling crimes.

“The Scottish Government will work closely with colleagues across the UK to ensure that any learning from the independent review, commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care, is used to further strengthen protections in our systems if required.”

“It is vital that everyone who works in our Health Service has the confidence to raise any concerns they may have.

“Policy measures are in place to support this and staff should raise a concern with their line manager or team leader, or with a more senior manager if circumstances mean this is more appropriate.

“There are also dedicated whistleblowing champions in each health board to ensure staff are encouraged and supported to speak up.

“The Independent National Whistleblowing Officer, run by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, is the first of its kind in the UK and provides a mechanism for external review of how a Health Board, primary care or independent provider has handled a whistleblowing case.”

READ MORE: Letby hospital faces mounting pressure over killer nurse’s actions

Meanwhile, there have been concerns raised over the independent inquiry's lack of power.

Crucially, it will not be able to compel witnesses to appear.

Steve Brine, the Tory chair of the Commons Health Select Committee said the inquiry needed to be effective.

“I can’t actually see how it’s anything but helpful to ministers, to that effectiveness, for this inquiry to have everything that it needs to conduct it, including a judge.”


Mr Brine said some witnesses “may not be so willing” to co-operate with the investigation.

“The two things that draw them together is the need for public confidence. I can’t see how anything other than a proper judge-led statutory inquiry would do that,” he said.

Letby is due to be sentenced today. Her lawyers have indicated that she does not want to present in court.