Amanda Holden on NHS “burning babies” scandal: Hospitals heated wards with fetal remains – parents thought they were cremated
A Channel 4 documentary last tonight tells how thousands of fetal remains have been incinerated with clinical waste
Essentially you’re powering hospitals by burning babies, Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden tells an MP in a hard-hitting documentary tonight.
The confrontation comes in Channel 4’s Dispatches as Amanda reveals how thousands of fetal remains have been incinerated along with clinical waste, instead of being cremated as parents were led to believe.
Her approach worked. The MP, Dr Dan Poulter, promised to investigate, which led to the practice being banned throughout the NHS.
Amanda said: “I think he underestimated me because of who I am – a blonde presenter ‘off the telly’ and I encouraged that because I think the best thing for any interviewer is to be underestimated.”
The show reveals freedom of information figures showing at least 15,500 fetal remains under 24 weeks old have been incinerated by 27 NHS trusts during the last two years.
Ten trusts admitted burning more than 1,000 sets of remains “as clinical waste”, while two others used “waste-to-energy” furnaces that power hospitals.
Amanda said: “It’s disgraceful to think babies were thrown into the burner alongside waste such as bandages and syringes.
“I hope mothers and fathers will be comforted by the knowledge this won’t go on any more.
“But I know it will make people think, ‘Oh my God, what happened to our baby’.
“We might have kicked over a hornet’s nest in some respects. I just hope women going through this will be comforted by the positive outcome.”
The show reveals how one of the country’s leading hospitals, Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge, incinerated 797 fetal remains below 13 weeks at their own “waste to energy” plant in two years.
Forms handed to women at the hospital say remains are “cremated”, not mentioning “incineration”. This goes against guidance from Sands, the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity, which states “incineration must not be called cremation”.
Another waste to energy facility at Ipswich Hospital, operated by a private contractor, incinerated 1,101 fetal remains between 2011 and 2013. They were brought in from another site. Ipswich Hospital itself disposes of remains by cremation.
Cathryn Hurley, 35, was devastated when she had a miscarriage and was told her baby would be “incinerated with the rest of the day’s waste”.
She found out during a scan her baby had died at eight weeks and later had a procedure. She said: “I was hysterical. I was crying. I asked a nurse what would happen to my baby, and she just said it will be incinerated with the rest of the day’s waste.
“That was really difficult to hear. To me it wasn’t waste, it was my baby.”
For legal reasons, the Trust involved in Cathryn’s case cannot be named.
For Amanda, who wed Chris Hughes in 2008, the Dispatches probe was close to her heart. Between giving birth to her daughters eight-year-old Lexi and Hollie, two, she suffered a miscarriage in 2010 and had a stillborn son, Theo, in 2011.
In the documentary Amanda goes to the chapel for the first time where Theo was cremated three years ago.
She was so upset that midwife Jackie Nash went on her behalf at the time, and she admits her visit for the programme was “hard, very hard”.
She adds: “I agreed to do the show but I was very strong about the fact that I always believed myself to be a champion of the NHS.
“And I still am. They saved my life and after I lost Theo we were treated with so much compassion and care.
“For me it was incomprehensible that it wasn’t the situation everywhere. I thought that when it came to the subject of babies dying, the policies wouldn’t be relaxed anywhere. But the documentary is just shocking.”
One in seven pregnancies ends in a miscarriage, and NHS figures show there are around 4,000 stillbirths each year in the UK, or 11 a day.
While the incineration of foetuses was banned in Scotland in 2012, the Human Tissue Authority currently permits it for remains under 24 weeks.
Yesterday Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter described the practice as “totally unacceptable”.
He added: “That is why I have asked Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS Medical Director, to write to all NHS hospital trusts. He has written to the NHS and made clear that it must stop now.
“The Chief Medical Officer has also written to the Human Tissue Authority to ask them make sure that there is clear guidance on this issue.
“While the vast majority of hospitals act in the appropriate way, that must be the case for all hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority has now been asked to ensure that it acts on this issue without delay.”
A spokesman for the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Trained health professionals discuss the options with the patients and families respectfully and sensitively, both verbally and in writing.
“Parents are given exactly the same choice on the disposal of fetal remains as for a stillborn child and their personal wishes are respected.”
Ipswich Hospital Trust said it was concerned to discover that fetal remains from another hospital had been incinerated on its site. It said the facility is run on its behalf by a private contractor.
A spokeswoman said: “The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust does not incinerate fetal remains.”
I wonder how this was ever considered an option. It brings up all sorts of horrible memories in our history.
Please share your thoughts and feelings with me. . .my blogger friends.
This is truly disheartening. Great post
Yes, and people should know….thank you for the visit and the comment.
In a world where disturbing, disheartening and sometimes down right awful has become the norm, this takes the cake. Good for Amanda for exposing this ugly practice.
Amanda is a hero. It is one of the stories I can’t get out of my head. I had to pass it along, though I try to be positive in my posts. Oh the horror of it!
This is so depressing!! UGH. But I’m glad you posted it here. I’m so glad someone is bringing this to light. Thank you.
I try to post positive topics but this needed to be passed on. We need to give voice to the voiceless.
I think it’s important. Thank you
Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.
This is horrible, and makes me wonder about what happens in our own country. Thanks for posting this Anne. It’s something we need to know, and we have to ask questions here at home now also. I had a still birth many years ago, so I’m not worried about that, but the way it is today….
Oh dear that is a very good question about hospitals here. I think it is important to if possible give voice to the voiceless. . . . .
I wonder if that goes on here in the USA as well?? Lord have mercy on us all.
One of the other bloggers suggested that! I don’t know and I can’t imagine how anyone would ever think to burn fetuses as garbage….. Lord have mercy on us all. . . .is right!