Review Into Hospital Maternity Deaths May Be Widened

Peter Russell

August 31, 2018

An investigation into allegations of poor care at a hospital's maternity service may be widened after reports that more babies and mothers may have died or been harmed than previously thought.

A review led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden was commissioned last year into 23 cases at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

At least 60 cases of alleged poor care, including baby deaths, brain injuries, and at least four deaths of mothers, have since been identified, according to the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

Following the launch of the review into events at the Shropshire trust, more families are said to have come forward with concerns covering a period of 19 years, the report said.

The most recent deaths at the Shropshire trust are believed to have taken place in December, when a mother and two babies died in unrelated incidents.

'The Trust Needs to Cooperate': MP

Mark Pritchard, MP for The Wrekin, joined families demanding that the inquiry should be widened into more recent deaths. "The trust needs to be frank and cooperate," he said on Twitter.

Rhiannon Davies, whose daughter Kate died 9 years ago, told the HSJ: "What's so difficult about what's coming out is that things have been and continue to be far worse than even we knew.

"Compounding this pain is the fact I now know acres of learning from avoidable deaths existed before Kate. Unlike what I was led to believe in 2009, Kate was not the first avoidable death at the trust. Yet no one bothered to learn and so sealed her fate – and mine, and that causes me almost unbearable pain."

'Factually Incorrect and Untrue'

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said it was aware of reports claiming that more cases have been 'uncovered', but described them as "factually incorrect and untrue".

The trust said it had reviewed 40 cases, 23 of which demonstrated no signs of failure of care, and five families were not identifiable.

The trust said it had also written to the 12 other families to seek permission for their care to be reviewed.

Simon Wright, the trust's chief executive, said: "The death of any baby is a terrible ordeal for any family. We take our responsibilities in reviewing these cases very seriously. To suggest that there are more cases which have not been revealed when this is simply untrue is irresponsible and scaremongering.

"This will cause unnecessary anxiety amongst women going through one of the most important times of their life and I would like to assure them that our maternity services are a safe environment with dedicated caring staff."

Further Investigations to Be Considered

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "We take any patient safety concerns extremely seriously. We have asked NHS Improvement to investigate whether further cases at Shrewsbury and Telford should be considered as part of the Ockenden Review, as well as assurance that the Trust has taken steps to improve maternity services since these issues came to light in 2016."

Dr Kathy McLean, executive medical director and chief operating officer at NHS Improvement said: "Our independent review will consider everything it can to ensure Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is equipped to learn from the previous failings in its maternity and neonatal services.

"This includes continuing to examine the 23 historical investigations identified in April 2017, as well as investigations that have been highlighted since then.

"Working with CQC [the Care Quality Commission] and others, we will ensure the trust has the right support in place to continue to improve its services for patients."

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