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Shropshire maternity scandal: Jeremy Hunt calls for fresh inquiry as hospital chairman announces new scrutiny panel to be set up

By Lisa O'Brien | Shrewsbury | Health | Published:

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for an independent inquiry into the baby death scandal in Shropshire – in addition to the current review being carried out.

Jeremy Hunt
  • Around 1,000 women have now contacted the Ockenden inquiry
  • An independent panel will be set up to oversee work by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust to improve maternity services
  • Trust chairman says review is at a different scale to what SaTH had initially prepared for
  • Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust chiefs have met hospital bosses at Morecambe Bay, which saw the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother
  • Funding agreed for second bereavement midwife at the trust
  • Counselling and support offered to staff

Mr Hunt, who is now chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, has made calls for a probe into why poor care and cover-ups are being repeated at different hospitals.

Hundreds of cases of alleged poor care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) are being invested by the Ockenden review, which Mr Hunt ordered in 2017.

In January East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust was also criticised over a series of deaths.

It comes as SaTH's chairman Ben Reid announced yesterday that an independent panel will be set up to oversee work by the trust to improve maternity services.

He told a board meeting that experts will be brought onto the panel, which aims to add a new level of scrutiny and help reassure the public that improvements are being made.

Mr Reid said there are "probably 1,000 women" who have now contacted the Ockenden inquiry, which is looking into the deaths of babies and mothers at the trust over the past 40 years.

He said the review is at a different scale to what SaTH had initially prepared for and he, along with interim chief executive Paula Clark, had been meeting with hospital bosses at Morecambe Bay, which saw the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother at Cumbria’s Furness General Hospital between 2004 and 2013.

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Bereavement

Mr Reid said he wanted to learn from its experiences and that SaTH would be making sure it has an adequate team in place to respond effectively to any families who have concerns.

Ms Clark said the trust had taken on feedback from Donna Ockenden, the maternity expert leading the independent review, and had drawn up a list of seven areas which needed action.

She said they include making sure women are fully informed about their choices and ensuring families are involved in any serious incidents from the outset.

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Ms Clark said the trust would be undertaking a ‘culture survey’ across the organisation after concerns were raised over a lack of kindness and respect shown to families and parents.

As a result of feedback about there being a lack of bereavement support, Ms Clark announced to the meeting that funding had been agreed for a second bereavement midwife.

Brian Newman, a non-executive director, said: “The report from Paula is very encouraging.

“The fact we have seven themes for actions and action is being taken is really good news for the board.”

Asking whether the trust was now operating a safe service, director of midwifery Nicola Wenlock said: “There is more we need to do but at a very base level we are operating a safe service.”

Tough

The board was also told how the trust is improving the morale of its staff.

Ms Clark said: “NHS Improvement has offered some money to us to help so if staff want to talk to anyone in terms of counselling and support we can offer that to them.

“We are trying to make sure we celebrate the really good milestones.

“I know that staff have had a tough time but we are continuing to recruit staff.”

She also said the new midwife-led unit will open next to the current consultant-led unit at Princess Royal Hospital in Telford in a few weeks time.

Wrekin midwife-led unit is to move into the new facility after £4 million of capital funding was secured from the Department of Health.

A leaked report into the Ockenden inquiry last year revealed a catalogue of concerns and that dozens of babies and mothers are thought to have died or been left disabled due to poor care at the trust.

The inquiry was launched by the Government in 2017, following concerns raised by families, and is yet to reach its final conclusions.

Lisa O'Brien

By Lisa O'Brien
Senior Reporter - @lisaobrien_Star

Senior reporter based at Shropshire Star's head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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