‘I’m not a hero, I was just doing my job’, says consultant who helped catch killer nurse Lucy Letby

Dr Ravi Jayaram broke down in tears as he was interviewed by ITV after Letby’s sentencing on Monday  (ITV)
Dr Ravi Jayaram broke down in tears as he was interviewed by ITV after Letby’s sentencing on Monday (ITV)

A neonatal doctor who helped catch Britain’s most prolific child killer Lucy Letby has said he is “not a hero, I was just doing my job”.

Letby, 33, was on Monday jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six more, while working as a nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neonatal unit between 2015 and 2016.

Dr Ravi Jayaram, a consultant who was clinical lead for neonates and paediatrics at the hospital, is among a number of medics who raised serious concerns about Letby with senior staff.

There was a significant rise in the number of babies suffering serious and unexpected collapses in the hospital’s neonatal unit in 2015 and 2016.

Consultant Dr Stephen Brearey first flagged Letby’s association with the increase in baby collapses in June 2015.

He and Dr Jayaram continued to express concerns to management as more sudden and unexpected collapses followed, but police were not contacted until 2017.

Dr Jayaram was visibly emotional on Monday night, as he was asked during an ITV interview what he made of babies’ families and police describing his actions as “heroic”.

“I’m not a hero,” he said. “I was just doing my job. It’s my job to look after babies and children.

“If any meaningful change about how the NHS reacts and reponds to serious and even relatively minor patient concerns changes as a consequence of all this, then I might possibly consider that I’ve done something heroic. Right now, I just think that I’ve done what I should have done.”

Dr Jayaram had approached Karen Rees - head of nursing at the Countess of Chester’s urgent care division before she retired in March 2018 - and expressed concerns about Letby’s clinical practices after a number of babies had collapsed.

But in a statement to Sky News, Ms Rees said she was not given enough information to justify removing Letby from her duties.

Giving evidence during Letby’s trial, Dr Jayaram said: “We had significant concerns from the autumn of 2015. They were on the radar of someone as senior as the executive director of nursing as far back as October 2015.

“As clinicians we put our faith in the system, in senior management to escalate concerns and investigate them. The initial response was ‘It’s unlikely that anything is going on. We’ll see what happens’. We said ‘OK’ – against our better judgment in retrospect.”

Lucy Letby (PA Media)
Lucy Letby (PA Media)

As more babies collapsed, Dr Jayaram continued to express concerns to management.

But Letby was not removed from the neonatal unit until after the deaths of two triplet boys and the collapse of another baby boy on three successive days in June 2016.

She was confined to clerical work and in September 2016 registered a grievance procedure.

It emerged during legal argument in the trial – in the absence of the jury – that the grievance procedure was resolved in Letby’s favour in December 2016. A number of consultants were also required to apologise to Letby formally in writing, the court heard.

Letby was due to return to the neonatal unit in March 2017, but the move did not take place as soon afterwards, police were contacted by the hospital trust.

She was suspended on full pay from the moment she was arrested in July 2018. It is understood she was sacked when she was charged in November 2020.

Dr Jayaram believes babies could have been saved, if Countess of Chester management had listened and acted sooner.

He added that police realised they had to be involved after listening to him for “less than 10 minutes” in 2017.

Responding to Letby’s sentencing, Dr Jayaram said on Monday night: “It is absolutely correct that she is put in prison for life without any chance of release, for the crimes that she has committed.

The Countess of Chester Hospital where killer nurse Lucy Letby worked (PA Wire)
The Countess of Chester Hospital where killer nurse Lucy Letby worked (PA Wire)

“But it doesn’t change the fact that parents of these babies, and their families, will never get back what’s been taken away from them, and it’s made me angry that she hasn’t had the courage to be there to face up to them.”

Letby was absent from the dock when she was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on Monday. Pressure is now mounting on Rishi Sunak to pass laws stopping “cowardly” murderers like Letby from refusing to appear at their sentencing hearings.

Letby’s murderous campaign against babies in her care will now be the the subject of an independent inquiry, amid growing clamour for as explanation as to why she was not stopped sooner.

The NHS on Sunday confirmed Alison Kelly, then-director of nursing and quality at the Countess of Chester Hospital, has been suspended by the Northern Care Alliance NHS Trust in Greater Manchester, where she now holds a similar role.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “We welcome the independent inquiry announced by the Department of Health and Social Care into the events at the Countess of Chester and will cooperate fully to help ensure all lessons are learned.

“In light of information that has emerged during the trial of Lucy Letby, and the announcement of the independent inquiry, the Northern Care Alliance has suspended Alison Kelly.”