Criminal Investigation Launched into Hospital Maternity Deaths

Peter Russell

July 01, 2020

A criminal inquiry has been launched into allegations of poor maternity standards at an NHS trust.

West Mercia Police confirmed they had launched an investigation into the care of mothers and babies who died at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust (SaTH).

The Trust is already the focus of an independent inquiry into what has been described as potentially one of the worst scandals in the history of the NHS.

The review, commissioned in 2017 and led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, has identified 1170 cases over a 40-year period for its investigation.

Ms Ockenden has since written to a further 400 families where potential failures had been identified, asking them whether they wished to be included in her review.

Last year The Independent newspaper reported details of a leaked report which it said detailed how at least 42 babies and three mothers had died between 1979 and 2017, with more than 50 children suffering permanent brain damage.

However, it said the report was written before the number of families' cases increased to almost 2000.

'Is There Evidence to Support a Criminal Case?'

Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell of West Mercia Police said: "We can confirm that a police investigation will be conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the Trust or any individuals involved. 

"The investigation is now live so we are unable to comment any further at this time."

The police have appealed to anyone with information that had not already been shared with the independent review team to contact them.

The decision to investigate was made on Tuesday following a meeting between the police, NHS Improvement, the Department of Health, and the independent reviewer to discuss complaints.
 

Cooperation With the Police

In a statement, Ms Ockenden reassured families that the criminal investigation would not affect the progress of her review.

"In the weeks ahead we will be in continued discussions with West Mercia Police with a view to identifying cases that may be relevant to the Police investigation," she said. "In due course we will write to those families whose cases may be relevant to the police investigation to gain their consent to share contact details with the police."

Louise Barnett, chief executive of SaTH, said: "We are aware that a police investigation will be conducted by West Mercia Police to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the Trust or any individuals involved, following complaints made against the Trust in relation to maternity services and provision. We will fully cooperate with the investigation.

"I would like to reassure all families affected that we are listening and acting on feedback.

"We are not able to comment further to avoid prejudicing the investigation."

SaTH was rated 'inadequate' overall by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in April 2020 which reported the situation unchanged since a previous assessment in November 2018.

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