The father of a baby boy who died following NHS failures fought back tears as he said “errors were pushed aside for many years”.

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust was on Friday fined £733,000 over the death of Harry Richford, who died seven days after his emergency delivery in November 2017.

His parents Tom and Sarah Richford were in court to hear the sentence read out after spending years fighting for answers.

Giving an emotional statement after the hearing at Folkestone Magistrates’ Court, Mr Richford said he was happy that a “sanction” was delivered but suggested policymakers explore options other than financial penalties for publicly funded organisations.

He added: “Mistakes happen every day, and in a hospital this will lead to death – we have, over time, come to accept this.

“Learning from these errors is vital and what makes hospitals a better and safer place for all.

“Sadly, both individual and systemic errors were pushed aside for many years with no learning taking place.”

He argued that this led to the “significant failings” witnessed in Harry’s death and others which are now being investigated by Dr Bill Kirkup, who is leading an independent review into East Kent Hospitals’ maternity services.

Mr Richford added: “Had these failings been addressed promptly and effectively we would not be here today, we are not here because of the failings from one evening.”

East Kent Hospitals case
Tom and Sarah Richford outside Folkestone Magistrates’ Court (Michael Drummond/PA)

Fighting back tears as his wife stood beside him, he asked for privacy for the family but vowed to “privately support” any future investigations to ensure long-lasting change at local and national level.

At the inquest into Harry’s death in January 2020, coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks listed a series of errors he found with the care given.

He gave a narrative conclusion that Harry’s death was contributed to by neglect and had been “wholly avoidable”.

Speaking outside court on Friday, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust’s chairman Niall Dickson said the organisation “welcome” the investigation by Dr Kirkup and are “determined” to learn any lessons that emerge.

He added: “Learning lessons and efforts to improve should never stop and we will work tirelessly to provide high-quality maternity services, which continually strive for improvement and are safe, effective, and centred on the women and children we care for.”

During the hearing, Philip Cave, finance director for the trust and a member of the board, acknowledged a series of failures at East Kent Hospitals but denied suggestions that the trust sought to cover up baby Harry’s death.