There has been a five-year inquiry into over 1800 cases where a lack in care has led to injury and even death at the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust. The report into the biggest maternity scandal in NHS history has been published today. Chaired by by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, the failings which have been uncovered are on such a large scale it’s unprecedented.
The trust has said previously that it takes "full responsibility" for the failures in maternity care and "offered their sincere apologies."
The report has been delayed a number of times which has left families who have been affected very frustrated, but today means they should get the answers they deserve.
It’s been reported that significant or major concerns of maternity care provided by Shrewsbury and Telford Trust found there were 131 stillbirths and 70 neonatal deaths. Most of these cases date from 2000 to 2019.
Stuart Bramley, a medical negligence Partner at Tozers who specialises in birth claims and inquests, writes -
"Those of us who strive to bring justice to families affected by medical errors expected Donna Ockenden’s report to be hard-hitting, but even against the background of known failings at Shrewsbury and Telford the number of ‘concerning’ deaths is shocking. Of nearly 2,000 stillbirths and neonatal deaths investigated, 201 were found to be avoidable. The same conclusion is true of 94 babies who survived but were brain-injured; and 9 mothers who died during childbirth.
That itself is a damning enough indictment of the NHS Trust involved but the report goes on to identify that even knowing of these tragedies, the hospitals were reluctant at best and obstructive at worst in accepting what was happening in their maternity units. I was moved by the comments of Rhiannon Davies, one of the two mothers whose efforts triggered the 5-year investigation. After her baby Kate died of a condition that should have been diagnosed and tackled, she found that a senior midwife refused to speak to her and her written concerns resulted in an insulting response. On Radio 4 this morning Rhiannon said that “They don’t want to be held accountable … they are too arrogant or ignorant to want to create change”. Sadly, that mirrors the experience of so many of us representing injured patients and their families. Sometimes a hospital or GP practice will investigate an error, identify failings, acknowledge these and apologise openly, but all too often clinical mistakes are defended against overwhelming evidence. It is only when legal proceedings are started that redress eventually occurs. Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust may say that they take ‘full responsibility’ for the failings, but that comes too late in the day - Rhiannon’s baby died 13 years ago and the investigation has been running for 5 years.
Not just in Shropshire but across the UK, hospitals need to act on the Ockenden findings otherwise this awful story will be repeated elsewhere. I can only echo Rhiannon Davies’ observation that “someone has to take ownership of the essential actions Donna Ockenden recommends”. I really hope the Health Service takes heed."
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