In the last few years, locally and nationally, public awareness surrounding standards of maternity care experienced by mothers and their babies in parts of England & Wales has grown primarily due to the unfolding Shropshire Maternity Care Scandal that has seen widespread coverage in the news.
In 2017, Jeremy Hunt (then Health Secretary) announced an investigation would be launched into the deaths of babies under care of the Trust, to examine the standard of the maternity care services provided. Unfortunately, since the investigation began, the number of families found to be affected in some way has increased dramatically.
Following its initial launch in 2017, where the investigation intended to look specifically at 23 incidents occurring between 2009 and 2016, the investigation has expanded dramatically, with many more families coming forward
Leading the investigation is Donna Ockenden, a registered midwife and maternity clinical expert (now Chair of the Independent Maternity review into care at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust). The Investigation has gone on to identify hundreds of further possible cases, where tragically, mothers, and babies have died or been left with life-changing injuries.
The Ockenden Review has now identified nearly 1,900 individual cases where there are signs of sub-standard care being a contributory factor in the death or serious injury to a baby or the death of a mother.
Families who have concerns and are not part of the review have been advised to directly contact the trust on firstname.lastname@example.org.
On 10 December 2020, Donna Ockenden released her first report on the emerging findings and recommendations out of the independent review of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. The first report focuses on 250 maternity cases and provides essential recommendations that require immediate action for both the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and maternity services at the NHS as a whole.
The findings of the report identified worrying trends at the Trust, in particular during the last two decades.
The report identified that one of the most disappointing themes was the reported lack of kindness and compassion from the maternity and bereavement services at what was such a difficult time.
Failings were identified in relation to appropriately risk assessing pregnancies and adequately explaining to prospective parents the risks and options for delivery in obstetric units and the standalone maternity units in the Trust’s geographical area.
The first report of the review found that there was a significant number of cases where midwives and obstetricians did not demonstrate an appropriate level of competence in relation to the monitoring of fetal heart rate and augmentation of labour with the use of oxytocin.
There was evidence of cases where there were repeated attempts at vaginal delivery with forceps causing damage to both mother and baby and a feeling from parents that the Trust was trying to keep the caesarean section rate, already lower than the national average, down.
The report made seven essential recommendations:
Strengthen maternity units by increasing partnerships between trusts and local networks.
Women and their families are listened to with their voices heard.
Staff who work together must train together.
Robust pathways must be in place to manage complex pregnancies.
Women must undergo a risk assessment at each contract throughout their pregnancy pathway.
All maternity services must appoint a dedicated lead midwife and lead obstetrician to champion best practice in fetal monitoring.
Women must have access to accurate information to enable informed choice about place of birth and mode of delivery including choice for a C-section.
It is understood that Donna Ockenden hopes to release her final report in late 2021. However, given the magnitude of the review and the number of families involved, we now understand the final report will be released by no later than 24 March 2022.
Since the release of Donna Ockenden’s emerging findings report, there have been a number of other developments. A police investigation is underway looking in to allegations of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence manslaughter, known as Operation Lincoln. Announcements have also been made to confirm that additional funding will be made available to improve maternity services and training across the NHS.
The Medical Negligence department is recognised in Tier One for the West Midlands in the 2022 edition of The Legal 500, which described the department as "distinct and outstanding" saying the group has extensive experience across a wide range of medical negligence claims including birth, brain and spinal injuries, fatalities, amputations and delay in diagnosis. Other strengths lie in advising on negligent surgery, ophthalmic and vascular conditions.'
The Chambers UK 2022 ranks the department in Band 1 for Hereford, Worcester & Surrounds and Shrewsbury & Surrounds, it states we are an 'Impressive practice group with a growing presence across the West Midlands. Offers specialist advice across the full gamut of clinical negligence mandates, with particular experience in cases of surgical error, delayed diagnosis and failure to supervise those at risk of suicide. Additionally skilled in cases relating to post-surgical negligence, brain injury and fatal claims.'
Chambers UK highlight Beth Heath who was appointed department head in May 2021 'Notable practitioner Beth Heath has experience advising clients on delayed diagnosis of cancer, surgical negligence and informed consent cases. "She is very organised and efficient, with a thorough approach."
Following the leaked interim report into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, our team has been inundated with calls from families whose child/children have tragically either died or suffered permanent brain damage or where there has been the devastating loss of a mother as a result of potential failings in care.
“We are investigating many cases but we are concerned because these are also our local Hospitals. Many of us have had our babies there. Understandably, trust in the Obstetric Unit has been eroded as information about the scandal is communicated by the media.
“Priority should be given to the families and to support and enable the hospitals to retrain and to rebuild trust, and introduce robust management systems to ensure that national guidelines are followed to keep future mothers and babies safe, and to support those who have suffered at the hands of failings.
“Our team is here to help our local community rebuild and ensure these failings never happen again.”
[Beth Heath, Head of Clinical Negligence at Lanyon Bowdler]
We have a dedicated team dealing with the enquiries and potential cases arising from the Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust maternity Scandal, headed by Beth Heath.
Lanyon Bowdler is a leading law firm across our region (and a Top 200 UK law firm) with a dedicated team of Medical Negligence Solicitors. Our specialist team includes an in-house doctor and two nurses and a midwife so we bring the highest medical understanding and legal expertise to each claim.
Our clinical negligence team is ranked in the highest categories in legal directors - tier 1 of The Legal 500 and band 1 in Chambers UK.
We are on the Law Society’s Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury Solicitors Panel and the AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents, a UK charity for patient safety and justice) specialist clinical negligence panel.
Our clinical negligence team has been awarded the Specialist Quality Mark, awarded by the Legal Services Commission. This is a testament to the level of expertise and experience in the team and is a prestigious appointment.
If you have been affected or harmed in any way due to inadequate or negligent Maternity Care at The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, then please get in touch with us to talk.
If you feel that your family has suffered due to negligent pre or post-natal healthcare anywhere in England & Wales, our team of specialists has the legal expertise and clinical acumen to help you decide whether you have grounds to make a claim for compensation.
With offices in Shrewsbury, Hereford, Conwy, Ludlow, Oswestry, Bromyard & Telford, Lanyon Bowdler are one of the most recognisable law firms in Shropshire, Herefordshire & North Wales specialising in clinical negligence claims. We regularly act for clients on medical claims from Birmingham, Worcester, Stafford, and right across the Midlands as well as into Cheshire. We can support your family wherever you are.
We are experts in medical negligence and, dealing with parents who have suffered the loss of a child or had an injury during birth due to negligence. You are in safe hands. Our people are your team and we will sensitively guide and direct you through the process of making a claim and hold your hand throughout the process.
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