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by Kathryn Thomson

Chief Executive

Liverpool Women’s terrorist attack. One year on.

It’s been almost a year since Liverpool Women’s Hospital became a target for a terrorist attack in November 2021. Although a year has passed the events of that Sunday in November have left their mark on the Trust and things will never quite be the same.

As we approach the anniversary of the incident, it is timely to reflect on that day and how we worked together as staff, patients, visitors, NHS partners and the local community, to keep each other safe.  

Over 8000 babies are born each year at Liverpool Women’s – it holds a special place in the heart of the city we serve.  The incident was extremely traumatic and upsetting for everyone in the city, not least our staff, our patients, their families and our local community. Whilst we can be grateful that the absolute worst did not happen, there is no escaping the fact that there was the intent to cause significant harm to NHS staff, pregnant women, newborn babies, their families and other people who were in our care.   The scars on our buildings have diminished but some of the deeper scars of that terrible intent remain.

Imagine being the woman in labour when the bomb exploded right outside your window; or the midwife or other clinician having to carry on looking after people on that day despite your fear about what may happen next; imagine being a partner on your way to visit the hospital to see your newborn baby on your happiest of days; or being in main reception when the bomb went off and glass and smoke blew in.

Our services already felt different due to COVID-19 restrictions. We knew immediately the terror and anxiety parents, partners, patients and families would be feeling.  Our staff ran towards danger not away from it. Their primary aim as always was to help and care for people, regardless of the risk to themselves and their commitment and dedication remained in the days and weeks following the incident as we continued to run a hospital within a live police cordon. Our staff were truly outstanding – our night shift staff were arriving hours early to ensure they could get on site and release the day shift.  Our partners in the city immediately responded to our calls for help - we had on-site counsellors within a couple of hours of the incident from Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust and other hospitals accepted some of our women during our brief closure to admissions.   

We were faced with running a hospital from within a Police Cordon, under the control of Police and Counter Terrorism.  We had to make quick decisions about what could be stood down, what could be transferred and when we would be able to resume normal service. 

Some outpatient and inpatient activity was cancelled in the 24 hours following the incident, transferred to a neighbouring Trust or converted to telephone appointment. No elective admissions were cancelled 48 hours after the incident.  17 babies were born on site on that day.

As always, there was learning from the events of that day. Running a major incident from a site which is no longer under your control creates specific challenges.  The Trust remained in Major Incident for 10 days, with the site remaining under the control of Police and NW Counterterrorism (NWCTU) specialist investigation teams during this time.

We quickly undertook a formal review of the entire incident, to identify what went well and what could have been better. This included debriefs with system partners, Police and counter terrorism colleagues. Lessons learnt have been supported by specialist security advice, considered crucial as the Trust is on a single isolated site without the infrastructure of a large acute Trust.  

Liverpool is a city with a huge heart which it wears proudly on its sleeve. Liverpool Women’s holds a special place in that heart.  There was significant anger in the city when we were targeted.  We were immediately sighted on the need to ensure that the attack did not trigger community tensions and a cohesive stance was taken by the Trust, the police and local community and religious leaders to demonstrate that we stood shoulder to shoulder and would not tolerate the incident being used to discriminate, blame or isolate anyone within our hospital or our community. If there is a positive to take from such an event, it is that the incident has connected the hospital even more to the community it serves. 

Fortunately, events like these are rare and Liverpool Women’s feels like a safe place again but everyone connected to the Trust will never forget the events of that day.

Kathryn Thomson
Chief Executive

Need our support?

We know that for many patients, visitors and families, the period on and around Remembrance Day this year may be upsetting in relation to events that occurred at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in November 2021. If you require any support over the upcoming period between 11th – 14th November 2022, please contact our Patient Experience Team at 0151 702 4353 or who will be on hand during normal working hours and their number/email inbox will also be regularly monitored out of hours and over the weekend during this period.

You can also visit the GOV.UK website HERE to access information about support for people impacted by a terrorist incident. You can also access a leaflet version of this information HERE.

01 November 2022