NHS England to invest £95 million to improve maternity care
The NHS is to invest almost £100 million to improve maternity care in England following the findings of the Ockenden report into maternity failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH).
In December 2020, the independent inquiry found babies’ skulls were fractured and that medical staff at the hospital had blamed grieving mothers for the deaths of their own children.
NHS England has now committed to spending £95 million for training and development programmes to support culture and leadership, and strengthening board assurance, as well as surveillance to identify issues earlier.
The inquiry into deaths and allegations of poor care at SaTH was set up in 2017 and is “the largest number of clinical reviews undertaken relating to a single service, as part of an inquiry, in the history of the NHS” - reviewing 1,862 families.
Former senior midwife Donna Ockenden’s report said “one of the most disappointing and deeply worrying themes” was the “reported lack of kindness and compassion from some members of the maternity team at the trust”.
The chief executive of SaTH has apologised for the “pain and distress” caused to mothers and families due to poor maternity care at the trust – after the review found that staff there had been “abrupt”, “dismissive” and “flippant”.
The review also said the deaths of Kate Stanton Davies in 2009 and Pippa Griffiths in 2016, whose families had campaigned for an independent review into maternity care at the trust, “were avoidable”.
NHS to invest £95 million
The decision at a recent NHS England board said follow-on funding would be subject to decisions in future years. The agenda for NHS England’s board meeting read: “The NHS is committed to providing safe, compassionate maternity services.
“While there has been clear progress over last five years of the Maternity Transformation Programme (MTP), Donna Ockenden’s first report (the Ockendon report) has highlighted variation and women and their families are not always receiving the care that they should.
“The seven ‘immediate and essential actions’ (IEAs) outlined in the Ockendon report include local, system and regional actions. We have introduced a quality assurance (QA) process to evaluate compliance against the seven IEAs, and to then support those organisations requiring improvement plans to reach full compliance.
“As a first step, we are also investing £95 million in the three overarching themes that have been identified; workforce numbers, training and development programmes to support culture and leadership, and strengthening board assurance and surveillance to identify issues earlier, thereby enabling rapid intervention.”
Professor Jackie Dunkley-Bent, NHS England’s chief midwifery officer, said: “Thanks to the efforts of NHS staff, there have been huge improvements in maternity services for women in England over the last decade – from fewer still births and better post-birth check-ups for new mums, to safely supporting the birth of up to 600,000 babies during the pandemic.
“Today’s report shows not just how safe it is to give birth in this country, but how we plan to make new and expectant mums’ experience of care better.
“The funding means we can build on and accelerate progress and make maternity services in England safer and better for women, babies and their families.”
Lesley Herbertson, Partner in our Clinical Negligence team and a birth injury claims specialist, comments:
"It is shocking that, in the 21st century, there were sufficient concerns about adverse outcomes in a single maternity unit that an independent review was required. For those families concerned, it must be devastating to be told that the death of or injury to their baby was avoidable, if only proper care had been provided. Whilst the Ockendon report will lead to future investment in maternity services throughout England, any underfunding to date will have already caused much harm and come at great personal and financial cost.
"We can only hope that by the increased funding of maternity services, there will be fewer adverse outcomes and more positive experiences for families as well as the medical staff caring for them."
Lesley is a Partner within our renowned Clinical Negligence team. Should you wish to contact Lesley regarding clinical negligence or birth injury, please call 0800 027 2557 or contact Lesley driectly here.