The NHS has ordered a new chair for the Nottingham maternity scandal review which is looking into hundreds of cases of alleged poor care.

In a letter published late on Friday the NHS said there needed to be “urgent” changes to the way the review was being carried out and this included appointing a former NHS trust chair Julie Dent to lead the review.

More than 100 bereaved families wrote to the health secretary Sajid Javid on 7 April calling for the review, to be overhauled and the chair Cathy Purt, to be replaced by Donna Ockenden who chaired the Shrewsbury maternity scandal inquiry.

The Nottingham review, dubbed an “independent thematic review”, was launched in July 2021 and is being led by local NHS commissioners and NHS England.

It was announced after The Independent and Channel 4 revealed millions had been paid out by the trust over 30 baby deaths and 46 incidents of babies left permanently brain damaged by Nottingham University Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Families said to the health secretary in a letter on 7 April they had no confidence in the thematic review and called for an independent review to replace it.

The families said they were concerned enough had been done to promote the review or reach out to other families. In April the number of people that had come forward to reviewers jumped from 87 to 461.

They also raised “significant concern” over the independence of thematic review as it had been commissioned by former employees of the trust.

In response to a letter from the families, Ms Ockenden said she would be happy to lead the review subject to being asked. It is not clear whether the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had contacted Ms Ockenden.

On Thursday families speaking with The Independent said they had not received any communication from the Department of Health and Social Care or NHS England since the letter was sent on 7 April.

Sir David Sloman, the NHS chief operating officer, said in his letter on Friday: “Following discussions at both a regional and national level, it is clear that urgent changes to how the review is being delivered need to be made. A new chair needs to lead this review with sufficient senior experience to address the concerns and challenges faced at Nottingham University Hospitals, to speed up the process and to deliver a review that can bring about real change for women and babies in Nottingham.

“It has therefore been agreed that the review will now have enhanced national oversight by NHS England and NHS Improvement and I am pleased to announce that Julie Dent CBE has agreed to take on the role of chair for this review and she will begin this work with immediate effect.”

The letter said the new chair Ms Dent would lead the current review team and consider what changes needed to be made to the terms of reference and methodology.

Mr Javid said: “I take patient safety concerns extremely seriously – no mother or baby should ever receive unsafe maternity care.

“Like with the Ockenden review, we are acting swiftly to urgently bring about real change through the Nottingham University Hospitals Maternity Review so that no families have to go through the same pain in future.

“I am confident the appointment of Julie Dent – with her extensive leadership and health sector experience – will deliver an independent review that addresses these tragic failures.”