Why was the Inquiry set up?
The Inquiry was established to investigate how David Fuller was able to carry out inappropriate and unlawful actions in the mortuaries at 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 deceased people are placed, 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 phase of its work. In the second phase of its work, the Inquiry will consider if procedures and policies in other hospital and non-hospital settings safeguard the security and dignity of the deceased.
Who is working on the Inquiry?
The Inquiry is independent of the NHS and the Government. The Chair is Sir Jonathan Michael. Rebecca Chaloner is the Secretary to the Inquiry. They are supported by an Inquiry team. More information about the Inquiry team can be found here.
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 without detection over such a long period of time. The Inquiry will also consider the issues identified in its investigation for the country as a whole, in order to safeguard the deceased and ensure that the offences David Fuller committed cannot be repeated elsewhere. In carrying out its work, the Inquiry wants to make sure families of David 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 reports?
The Inquiry published the Phase 1 report on matters relating to David Fuller’s offending at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust on 28 November 2023. The report for phase 2 of the Inquiry, looking at the broader national picture and the wider lessons for the NHS and other settings will follow in 2024.
Is the Inquiry making good progress?
Updates on the Inquiry’s progress are made regularly and are available on the ‘Announcements’ page of the Inquiry’s website, here.
Will evidence be given to the Inquiry in private or in public?
The Inquiry was formally established in January 2022, and our processes and protocols are continuously reviewed as the Inquiry progresses.
Evidence sessions with families as part of the Inquiry’s first phase were held in private to protect the dignity and anonymity of those who David Fuller abused. In addition, 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.
As part of its second phase, which considers the broader national picture, the Inquiry intends to make public recordings of the seminars it holds to ensure the transparency of its work.
What will happen if someone refuses to give evidence?
There are levers available to the Inquiry 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.
NHS 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 will consider naming in its reports individuals or organisations who do not cooperate with the Inquiry (but please note that we will not name David Fuller’s victims or their families in our reports).
How are families being involved in the Inquiry and how is the Inquiry ensuring 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 crimes of David Fuller an opportunity to be heard and for the Inquiry and any recommendations it makes, to be informed by this. We are making sure that families can share their experiences and information with the Inquiry in ways that are supportive and sensitive. We have put in place measures including offering independent emotional support to families while they are speaking with the Inquiry and where we can, we offer 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.
What will be the extent of the disclosure to families? Will families have access to all the material?
It is the Inquiry’s role to investigate, collate and review evidence that will be used to inform its findings and recommendations on matters relating to David Fuller’s activities at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, and its phase two 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.
The Inquiry has taken every effort to keep families informed of the progress it has made since it was established and will continue to do this over the remainder of its work.
What sectors will the Inquiry be looking at in Phase 2 of its work?
In line with the Terms of Reference, in Phase 2, the Inquiry will look at the broader national picture to understand the procedures and practices across the country which are in place to protect the deceased. This includes hospital settings (NHS and private) and non-hospital settings such as the traditional and direct funeral sector, private mortuaries and ambulances, local authority mortuaries, medical schools and hospices. We launched the first module looking at the traditional and direct funeral sector, private mortuaries and private ambulances in July 2023.
How can I contribute to Phase 2 of the Inquiry’s work?
You can contact the Inquiry via email at email@example.com or by calling 0207 972 1444.
Announcements in relation to Phase 2 will be published on the Inquiry’s website.