Maternity Services Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

This blog was written by Ruairi Willis who spent a week with us on work experience this summer.

In January 2017, the former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered an investigation into a series of allegations that questioned the maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. This attracted national media attention with several families being formally identified. Recently, it was announced that this investigation was to be widened following a further number of families coming forward about potential poor maternity care.

Avoidable

The independent review was launched last year due to nine deaths between September 2014 and May 2016. According to subsequent inquests, seven of these deaths were “avoidable”.

The original figure in early 2017 related to 23 cases at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, however this figure has now risen to over 40 cases. The original 23 cases that were reviewed included baby deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries due to alleged inadequate maternity care. 

Lack of staff

Last summer, The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust invited the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to conduct an evaluation of maternity services. The report highlighted a number of issues that included a culture of learning from incidents was not apparent and there was a lack of staff – particularly midwives.

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has said that it has written to a further 12 families to seek permission for their care to be reviewed as there “may be potential for further learning”.

Scaremongering

Simon Wright, the Trust’s Chief Executive suggested that there are no further cases which have not been revealed and to suggest there was/is “irresponsible and scaremongering”.

On the other hand, as the number of cases increases, anxiety throughout the local community will increase as the investigation widens. There is a need to understand why these failings occurred and the assurance they will not be repeated.

Reassurances needed

Lanyon Bowdler is representing several families whose babies have died or have been born with injuries. The priority for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is to provide reassurances that preventable deaths will not occur again.

As more families come forward about their experiences, there must be a degree of accountability and a transparent process that allows the public to ascertain the severity of the failings that have occurred. In my view it is pertinent for any organisation to recognise its failings and improve through education. The culture could be reformed by encouraging staff to highlight safety issues through increased dialogue before a patient is injured.

Nevertheless, the focus should strive to ensure that the failings in these cases should never happen again and this will be down to constant review, adequate supervision  and on going training.