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Review into maternity care now investigating almost 1,900 cases

  • 24.07.2020
  • JessicaMG
  • Clinical-negligence
  • Clinical negligence NHS medical negligence birth injury baby deaths

The largest ever review into maternity care in the NHS reveals it is now reviewing almost 1,900 cases.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

An investigation into failures in care and avoidable baby deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) is examining 1,862 incidents, most of which have taken place in the last 20 years.

When Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered the independent review back in 2017, the chair of the review Midwife Donna Ockenden, was asked to investigate just 23 cases. However, in the last three years a flurry of families has come forward to express concerns regarding the care they received at the trust.

Initially the review only focused on electronic data, however a fresh study was ordered after some families said they had been excluded and the review team asked the trust to examine its paper records.

Ms Ockenden said: "I would like to thank them [the trust] for all the work undertaken to reach this point. By working together, we have sadly identified a further 496 families as part of the review, who I am writing to this week."

In an open letter Louise Barnett, chief executive of the trust, said: "We should have provided far better care for these families at what was one of the most important times in their lives and we have let them down.

"An apology is not enough. What needs to be seen is evidence of real improvement at the trust. This is why we are committed to listening to families, our community and working with Donna Ockenden's review."

"Potential negative media scrutiny"

The latest update follows a separate report which revealed the trust had held back on publishing a critical report into maternity care in 2017 by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), for fear of negative media coverage. 

Former chief executive Simon Wright "would not accept the report" when it was initially presented to him and led efforts to get the college to change its highly critical findings. An investigation, carried out by NHS Improvement, said Mr Wright was motivated not just with concerns about the contents of the report, but also the "potential negative media scrutiny".

Senior managers from the trust travelled to London for a highly unusual meeting, where they attempted to assure the RCOG that care had improved. It was only after reviewers at the college produced a more positive additional report that the original report was published. 

NHS Improvement has also been critical of the role of the trust's board after it found no members asked any questions of the contents of the report, despite being told at a private meeting that the RCOG reviewers had sent through their findings. NHS Improvement concluded:

"A number of individuals have described a culture of defensiveness, denial and/or lack of openness that existed at the time in the maternity service and trust more generally. While such a culture clearly does not excuse any actions or behaviours, it may help explain them."

Furthermore, such is the scale and severity of the failings at SaTH, that in June this year it was announced that West Mercia Police have launched a criminal investigation into maternity care at the trust.