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Memorial sculpture unveiled at Furness General Hospital

L-R: Lesley Bennett and Liza Brady at the unveiling of the memorial at the South Lakes Birth centre_

A memorial to commemorate babies and a woman who died at Furness General Hospital’s Maternity Unit between 2004 and 2013 has been unveiled by members of their families.

The sculpture depicts a moon and 11 stars which represent the mum and babies who Dr Kirkup, in his Morecambe Bay Investigation Report, said would have been expected to live if they had been given different medical care. The sculpture also commemorates those who were harmed by the failings identified in Dr Kirkup’s report.

The memorial is sited outside the £12 million South Lakes Birth Centre which was built in partnership with the families and the local community following publication of the Kirkup Report.

Lesley Bennett, whose daughter Elleanor died in 2004, said: “I feel like this is the final part of the journey that we have had.

“I feel immensely proud of the fact that the Trust is so willing to engage and work with families and take on board things that we have said.

“It was very hard for the families, but it was hard for the staff as well. I am so proud of everything that the Trust has achieved and carries on achieving because it is a continuous process. But the legacy of the Kirkup Report, and the mum and babies who died, will be here forever. For me that means so much because my daughter is not just a statistic anymore; she touched lots of people’s lives without even knowing it.”

Liza Brady, whose son Alex was delivered stillborn at the hospital in 2008, said: “The event felt very personal and it represents where we have come to. I am really pleased with how the Trust has acknowledged what went wrong and all the work they have done to put things right. That is a great comfort to me.”

James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died in 2008, said: “I think the memorial is just perfect and I’m so grateful to everyone involved in the project. The Trust has worked incredibly hard to learn from what happened in the past and should rightly be proud of the new maternity unit and the superb service now provided to mums and babies in the area.”

In addition to members of families who lost loved ones, attendees at the ceremony included Aaron Cummins, the Chief Executive of UHMBT, Sue Smith OBE, Executive Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive of UHMBT and Debbie Wilde, FGH Chaplain, who blessed the memorial, along with staff from the Trust’s Corporate and Maternity services.

Sue Smith said: “We are humbled that representatives of some of the families are here with us today to unveil this memorial which is a permanent reminder and a place for quiet reflection.

“The maternity services we have now are massively improved compared to the services we had in the past and in this we owe a special thanks to those families who lost loved ones but have supported us in the changes we have made. Their bravery and commitment to helping us to improve things further have been inspiring. We can’t thank them enough.

“We also owe a huge debt to our staff, the local community and our other stakeholders and regulators for their support with the changes we have made since the Kirkup Report was published.”

The sculpture was designed and built by students at Furness College in consultation with representatives of the families who lost loved ones.

It is made of Corten steel – the same material as the Angel of the North. This steel will rust and as it does so the colour will change but the rust will preserve the sculpture.

Scott Wilson, an engineering lecturer at Furness College, said the students had not only benefited from being involved but were proud to have created something really meaningful and worthwhile.

“Our art students and engineering apprentices have worked across the college’s two campuses on this very special project.

“From something that started as a concept on a piece of paper, it was designed and taken right through to manufacture. Each stage has been carefully completed to the highest standards. To see it unveiled as a memorial that will be on display outside the South Lakes Birth Centre for many years to come was very powerful and moving.

“This project has involved a number of key skills that our apprentices learn on their programmers – from teamwork and communication to negotiating between the trades involved and meeting deadlines. It also gave them a chance to work on new materials and machinery.

“This was a very worthwhile project for the apprentices that worked on it and it was for a sculpture that is of lasting significance.”

Helen Gibson, Deputy Head of Sixth Form, said: “The design brief was a great opportunity for all our art and design students to work to a real life ‘client brief’.

“The finished design was a product of great teamwork as it had elements of quite a few of the students’ designs incorporated into it. The students were really passionate about taking part in the project and had some fabulous ideas.”

A number of local businesses provided their services for free to help install the sculpture. The lighting was provided by Lumier and the sculpture was delivered by Steeles Removals.

Aaron Cummins said: “It was truly tragic what happened and, as a father, my heart goes out to all those concerned, not just those who have lost loved ones through the failings identified in Dr Kirkup’s Report, but to anyone who has felt the pain of losing a loved one at what should be one of the happiest times in a person’s life. I would like to thank my colleagues and the contractors who have worked extremely hard to make this memorial sculpture a reality. We will never forget what happened. We owe it to those who died to continually improve in everything that we do.”

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