More than 600 cases related to Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals maternity care are being investigated in what has been described by a senior NHS source as the “largest maternity scandal in NHS history.”
The cases being investigated include 17 deaths of babies after birth, three deaths of mothers, 22 stillbirths, three deaths during pregnancy, 47 cases of substandard care and 51 cases of cerebral palsy or brain damage as a result of hospital failures.
Jeremy Hunt, former Health Secretary, ordered an investigation in 2017, but the cases included in the investigation went up by about 300 earlier this year. Despite the investigation being ordered in 2017, deaths and injuries were still being reported up to the end of 2018. Now, the cases being investigated cover the period from 1979 to the present day, with numbers expected to rise still further.
Previously, the Morecambe scandal was the worst ever maternity scandal, concerning the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother at the Furness General Hospital in Cumbria between 2004 and 2013.
Hospital failures caused deaths and deep distress
- The leaked report detailing the investigations’ scope tells of horrifying events which involved:
- Staff failing to recognise babies’ conditions deteriorating during labour, resulting in babies suffering brain-damage
- Failure to pick up on Strep B or meningitis, which can be treated by antibiotics, causing death
- Failure to monitor heartbeats adequately
- A father hearing of the birth complications which led to his daughter’s death only upon bumping into a hospital employee at a supermarket
- Families who had just lost their babies being told to “keep the noise down” or they would have to leave
- Staff losing a baby girl’s shawl, which her mother had planned to bury her in
- Naming deceased babies incorrectly and often referring to them as “it”
- Telling women ‘not to worry’ that they had lost their baby because they’d be pregnant again within the year
- Midwives altering notes retrospectively
Families affected by the scandal
Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton, parents of baby Kate who died in 2009 after midwives failed to monitor her condition, were among the families who first pushed for the independent inquiry following the inquest into Kate’s death which confirmed that it had been avoidable.
The inquiry, led by midwife Donna Ockenden, identified systemic failings and as a result, the trust’s two hospitals, Royal Shrewsbury and Princess Royal, Telford – which delivers 4,700 babies each year – were put into special measures.
Call for criminal charges
But Ms Davies doesn’t believe that placing the hospitals into special measures is enough – she said: “The only way I believe it will stop is if the police or Crown Prosecution Service bring corporate manslaughter charges against the trust.”
Ms Davies told of the effect that the scandal has had on her family: “The devastating reality of Kate’s avoidable death, that I have to live with, is that she was condemned to her painful death by the culture at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust that wilfully refused to learn from earlier cases dating back decades.” She explained that she is “devastated that so many people have been treated in such a way.”
Ally Taft, partner with Medical Accident Group said:” A baby coming into this world should be one of the best days of a parent’s life, but because of the trust’s failures, it has been turned into the worst. What’s even more devastating is that such serious failures have been allowed to continue for so long. No amount of money will ever make families feel better about what they’ve been through. We can only hope that the investigation now means the same things won’t happen again.”
If you or a family member have suffered through hospital failures, we have a team of dedicated clinical negligence solicitors experienced in dealing with childbirth claims who will guide you through the process of making a claim.
Call the team now on 0800 050 1668 or email us at [email protected].