Why was the Inquiry set up?
The Inquiry has been established to investigate how David Fuller was able to carry out inappropriate and unlawful actions in the mortuary of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and why they went apparently unnoticed. It will also consider if procedures and practices in other hospital and non-hospital settings, where bodies of the deceased are kept, safeguard the security and dignity of the deceased.
Which NHS Trusts will be considered by the Inquiry?
The Inquiry will investigate Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in the first part of its work. In the second part of its work, the Inquiry will also consider if procedures and policies in other hospital and non-hospital settings safeguard the security and dignity of the deceased.
What period will the Inquiry cover?
The Inquiry will review the period for which David Fuller was employed at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and its predecessor organisation and any other period which it may deem relevant to its investigation.
Who will be working on the Inquiry?
The Inquiry is independent. The Chair is Sir Jonathan Michael. Rebecca Chaloner is the Secretary to the Inquiry. They are supported by an Inquiry team.
What does the Inquiry hope to achieve?
The Inquiry will make recommendations with the aim of preventing anything similar happening again. To do this, it will investigate how David Fuller was able to offend in a hospital setting withour detection over such a long period of time. The Inquiry will also consider the issues identified in its investigation for the country a a whole, in order to safeguard the deceased and ensure that Fuller’s activity cannot be repeated elsewhere. In carrying out its work, the Inquiry wants to make sure families of Fuller’s victims and others who have been directly affected by his actions can share their experience and information with the Inquiry in ways that are sensitive and supportive.
When will the Inquiry publish its final report?
The Inquiry aimed to publish its initial report on matters relating to David Fuller’s activities at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust during 2022, however, in order to ensure all evidence is considered and analysed thoroughly, the Inquiry will require more time than originally planned, and this report will now be published in the first half of 2023. The final report, looking at the broader national picture and the wider lessons for the NHS and other settings is still scheduled for publication in 2023.
What is the aim and objective of the Inquiry?
The Independent Inquiry into the issues raised by the David Fuller case has been established to investigate how David Fuller was able to carry out inappropriate and unlawful actions in the mortuary of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust and why they went apparently unnoticed.
The Inquiry will also consider if procedures and practices in other hospital and non-hospital settings, where bodies of the deceased are kept, safeguard the security and dignity of the deceased.
The Inquiry will make sure that families and others affected can share their experiences and information in ways that are supportive and sensitive.
The Inquiry will make recommendations with the aim of preventing anything similar happening again.
The Inquiry team is dedicated to investigating how this activity was carried out for so long without detection and we are determined to be focussed, objective and thorough in our work.
How will the families be involved in the Inquiry and how will the Inquiry ensure families that have agreed to come forward will be supported and treated with sensitivity?
An important part of the Inquiry is to afford the families who have been affected by the actions of David Fuller an opportunity to be heard and for the Inquiry and any recommendations it makes, to be informed by this. We want to make sure that families can share their experiences and information with the Inquiry in ways that are supportive and sensitive. Measures we will put in place to help with this include offering independent emotional support to families whilst they are speaking with the Inquiry and where we can, offering a choice about how, where and when families can share their information with us.
Will the Inquiry supply funding for legal representation?
It is the Inquiry’s position that legal representation is not required to participate in the Inquiry, so therefore funding for this will not be needed. The Inquiry intends to work with people to make sure that their interactions with the Inquiry team are sensitive and supportive. It is our intention that evidence sessions will be held privately in order to protect anonymity and the dignity of the deceased.
Will evidence be given to the Inquiry in private or in public?
The Inquiry was formally established in January, and our processes and protocols are at an early stage and will be continuously reviewed as the Inquiry progresses. It is our intention that the Inquiry’s evidence sessions will be held in private. The reasons for this are primarily to protect and safeguard the dignity and anonymity of those people that Fuller abused. In addition to this, learning from other independent inquiries has suggested that people may be more candid if they are able to give their evidence in private. The Inquiry is determined that we learn as much as possible about how such acts could take place undetected in hospitals for such a long time. To achieve this, we need people to be candid in their evidence to us.
What will happen if someone refuses to give evidence?
There are levers available to us if individuals or organisations refuse to give evidence. Registered professionals are likely to be in breach of their professional code of conduct if they do not cooperate with the Inquiry, and the Inquiry could report them to their professional regulator.
Trust staff who are not registered healthcare professionals or governed by a regulatory body, will be bound to cooperate with an investigation under their contracts of employment and anyone working in health and social care in general is bound by the Nolan Principles: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life .
Ultimately, the Inquiry could consider naming individuals or organisations who do not cooperate in the Inquiry’s report (but please note that we would not name DF’s victims or their families in our reports).
What will be the extent of the disclosure to families? Will families have access to all the material?
It is the Inquiries role to collate, review and investigate evidence and materials that will be used to inform its initial report on matters relating to David Fuller’s activities at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, and its final report, looking at the broader national picture and the wider lessons for the NHS and other settings.
Only the Inquiry will have or need access to all the material so it can be reviewed, however, all relevant material and evidence will be reflected in the Inquiry reports.
We heard from some families that they would like to be informed of the progress the Inquiry is making. We will consider how best we can do this.
How can I contact the Inquiry?
Currently you can contact the Inquiry via email.