£175k a year medical director of Letby's hospital caught in blame game

Retired £175,000-a-year medical director of hospital where Lucy Letby murdered seven babies faces accusations he ‘fobbed off’ the parents of her victims – as he is pictured enjoying a glass of wine with his wife at their rural home in France

  • Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering seven babies and trying to kill six more
  • Ian Harvey was medical director of hospital where Letby carried out killing spree
  • The £175,000 a year medical boss was accused of ‘fobbing off’ victims’ parents 

Relaxing with a glass of wine at the rural French home he shares with his wife, this is the retired NHS manager who has now been accused of ignoring doctors’ concerns about Lucy Letby as she embarked on her murderous spree.

Ian Harvey, 65, was the £175,000-a-year medical director of the Countess of Chester Hospital where Letby murdered seven premature babies and attempted to kill six more.

But amid the fallout from Letby’s ten-month trial – and following accusations that he ‘fobbed off’ parents of murdered babies – Mr Harvey is now caught up in a bitter war of words between hospital executives and senior doctors over who, if anyone, should take the blame for not stopping the killer nurse sooner.

For while several consultants claim he refused to listen to concerns about Letby following a spike in premature baby deaths in 2015 and 2016, Mr Harvey has questioned, via a statement to the Mail, why they took so long to pick up on blood tests which revealed two of the babies had been poisoned with insulin.

With former hospital colleagues now pointing the finger at each other, the Mail has discovered unanswered questions for those on both sides of this ugly row.

Former medical director of the Countess of Chester Hospital Ian Harvey is pictured enjoying his retirement at his sprawling French farmhouse with his wife Lesa

The £175,000 a year medical boss was accused of fobbing off victims’ parents. He is now in a bitter war of words with other hospital executives and senior doctors over who is to blame for not stopping the killer nurse

Suspicions about Letby emerged in June 2015 after the death of three premature babies at the hospital and the collapse of another within a fortnight – the equivalent of an average year’s worth of deaths in just 14 days. While Letby, then 25, was the only employee on duty at the time, it seemed unthinkable that the well-liked nurse could have harmed the infants.

By the end of October 2015, seven premature babies had died. Again it was noted that Letby had been the only staff member present at each death, but this was still deemed a coincidence by medical staff.

Senior doctors asked independent expert neonatologist Dr Nimish Subhedar, from Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, to review the deaths. Noting that the babies had been stable and all had unusually failed to respond to resuscitation attempts, he also noted Letby’s presence in each case.

Neonatal consultant Stephen Brearey claims he sent Dr Subhedar’s report to Mr Harvey in February 2016 and requested an urgent meeting – something, he claims, which did not take place for another three months. Mr Harvey denies this.

‘It has been alleged that the paediatricians informed me of their concerns in February 2016 but a meeting was not arranged until May 2016. I do not recall any such communication,’ he said in a statement sent to this newspaper.

He added: ‘It is surprising, given the level of concern that some of the paediatricians professed to have had at the time, that there was no follow-up to chase a response, either with my secretary or with me.’

Nor did consultants express concerns to the health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, during their four-day visit to the hospital in February 2016.

By then, Letby had killed five babies in nine months, but nothing was said about the spike in premature baby deaths.

Neo-natal nurse Lucy Letby (pictured) was convicted of murdering seven babies and trying to kill six more

The Countess of Chester Hospital where Letby went on a horrifying killing spree between June 2015 and 2016

The CQC say that consultants at the trust shared other concerns during the inspection. These related to staffing levels and a lack of support from senior management and ‘a culture of bullying where concerns they had raised with management were ignored’. According to the CQC, this was followed up the same day with Mr Harvey so that ‘action could be taken in response’.

Even so, the hospital was found to be led and managed by ‘an accessible and visible executive team’ with staff that felt ‘well supported’ and ‘able to raise concerns’.

Mr Harvey insists he had ‘an open door policy’, adding: ‘If I was in my office and there wasn’t a meeting, my door was open and anyone was able to call, be it with a professional or personal problem – as many did. At no time prior to May 2016 did a consultant paediatrician come to my office or discuss their concerns.’

Mr Harvey, who qualified as a doctor in 1981, arrived at the hospital in 1994 as a consultant traumatic orthopaedic surgeon. He entered management as medical director in 2012 and was appointed deputy chief executive in May 2016.

Turning the tables on his former colleagues, he questioned why doctors failed to spot that a premature twin baby boy had been poisoned with insulin all the way back in August 2015 after sending blood samples for analysis.

One of the neonatal consultants noticed the abnormal results but did not suspect foul play and did not tell his colleagues.

In February 2016, a second infant also had a blood test revealing abnormally high insulin levels but junior doctors failed to realise its significance. According to Mr Harvey: ‘These blood tests were potentially the only concrete evidence that we could have had that accidental or malicious acts had harmed babies. Had I been told about them at or before the meeting in May 2016, I would have recommended meeting with the police immediately.’

As a result, he claimed, when he and other executive colleagues met with police ‘we did not have anything but limited circumstantial evidence to report’.

Letby wasn’t arrested for the first time until July 3, 2018. That month, four consultant paediatricians reported Mr Harvey to the General Medical Council (GMC). Just weeks later, Mr Harvey retired from the trust at the age of 60, with a pension pot worth £1.8 million after more than two decades at the trust.

During his farewell speech to colleagues a month later, he said: ‘I have every confidence that this hospital will cope with everything that is thrown at it and go from strength to strength because the teams here are just so good.’

Ian Harvey is handed a retirement gift in July 2018

One former employee told the Mail: ‘Around the time he retired, I asked Harvey whether he thought there could be a public inquiry into what had happened, and his words were, ‘They would have to find me first,’ which bothered me.

‘He was implying he would be long gone. The paediatricians definitely forced his hand. They told him, ‘If you don’t go to the police, we will.’ There was a lot of dragging of feet. They were frustrated.’

Mr Harvey and his second wife, Lesa, 63, sold their £400,000 home in the village of Malpas in Cheshire and decamped to the Dordogne, where they care for rescue horses.

Social media suggests they spend their time tending to their animals, hosting family, enjoying restaurants and taking weekend breaks at five-star hotels. But what should have been a peaceful retirement has been marred by the Letby scandal.

The GMC held a four-year ‘full investigation’ into Mr Harvey, liaised with police and obtained an independent expert report. According to a spokesman, the GMC ‘thoroughly examined all relevant information’ before concluding last year that the case did not reach the threshold for referral to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service.

However, parents of a baby killed by Letby claimed they were ‘totally fobbed off’ by Mr Harvey when they pleaded for answers about what happened to their child. Mr Harvey said he had wanted to give ‘detailed and accurate answers’ to the parents but ‘once the police were involved, we were advised by them not to do or say anything that might jeopardise the investigation’.

But solicitor Richard Scorer, head of abuse and public inquiries at Slater and Gordon, which is acting for two families, claims the parents contacted him several months before the police were called in.

Parents of a baby killed by Letby (pictured) claimed they were ‘totally fobbed off’ by Mr Harvey when they pleaded for answers about what happened to their child

Mr Harvey sent the first of four ‘very bureaucratic’ letters inviting the parents to get in touch in February 2017, said Mr Scorer, but failed to return their calls and the promised meetings never materialised.

Mr Harvey said: ‘I do not have access to previous mail or emails and cannot comment specifically. I am willing to be subjected to proper accountability and I will attend the public inquiry in person. I will contribute fully, openly and honestly. I will do everything I can to help parents get the answers they deserve.’

A public inquiry will examine the circumstances surrounding Letby’s crimes. Ultimately, as a source close to the case told this newspaper: ‘There’s definitely a feeling that they’re all getting their stories straight, taking control of the narrative before any inquiry starts.’

Additional reporting: Daisy Graham-Brown

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