Lawyers back calls for urgent action after findings of Shropshire maternity review

Specialist lawyers representing families affected by one of the biggest maternity scandals in history have backed calls for urgent action to improve care.

Rhiannon and Richard Stanton Davies
Rhiannon and Richard Stanton Davies

The first report from the Ockenden inquiry into maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals was published this week, identifying areas for immediate improvement.

Its initial findings identified 27 local actions needed to improve maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, as well as seven for services across England.

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Law firm Irwin Mitchell is representing a number of parents who say they have suffered as a result of failings, stretching back decades.

Tim Annett, an expert medical negligence lawyer at the firm, said: “We’re deeply concerned by the report’s findings – in particular that issues were seemingly allowed to manifest themselves for years because of continuing care problems and lessons not being learned as well as some families’ concerns not being listened to.

“Sadly other maternity scandals such as Morecambe Bay and East Kent Hospitals would indicate that what happened at Shrewsbury and Telford wasn’t an isolated problem which we believe the review has acknowledged in its national recommendations.

“As also identified by the Ockenden Review, we reiterate our call for decisive and meaningful action to be taken to address the issues identified in this report.”

Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors also represent more than 75 families pursuing legal claims against SaTH.

Kay Kelly, head of clinical negligence, said the initial findings were deeply worrying but it was important to start looking to the future.

She said: “The report identifies disappointing and deeply worrying themes which have jeopardised patient safety and caused harm to babies and mothers for years.

“As we at Lanyon Bowdler continue to fight for justice for those families that have been affected, we must also look to the future.

“This is our local trust. Our staff, friends and family all give birth here and so this is an incredibly personal cause to our team.

“We have profound sympathy for our clients and the families that have suffered indescribable loss, and we look forward to improvements being made to ensure the maternity services at our local trust are safe.”

Change

The initial findings are a ‘very small step in the right direction’, according to Ian Cohen, head of personal injury and medical negligence at Simpson Millar, who represented the family of Kate Stanton-Davies who died just hours after her birth in 2009 in the care of SaTH.

He said: “The families involved in this review have waited years for answers, and for justice to be done.

“While the initial recommendations appear to address some of the many, many concerns highlighted as part of the cases under review, the reality is that there is no one holding failing trusts across the country to account when it comes to implementing such change.

“As identified within the report, there is a desperate need for a ‘critical oversight’ of patient safety in maternity units nationwide. Surely, we are therefore beyond simply ‘imploring’ to their sense of duty?

“Until that happens, I’m afraid the struggle and heartache of so many bereaved parents has simply not been recognised, and they will take limited comfort that lessons have truly been learnt.

“As the review continues, we would urge the review committee to do more to ensure that all trusts publish their plans and a tangible timeline to provide much needed reassurance – both to those who have already suffered, as well as expectant mothers.”

In 2009 Ian was appointed to represent the family of Kate Stanton-Davies, whose parents Rhiannon and Richard Stanton Davies helped to launch the inquiry.

The findings of Kate’s inquest established that hers was an avoidable death.

The inquiry into baby deaths at the trust was ordered in 2017 by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt – with Kate’s case included in the original 23 – but it has since been expanded to look at 1,862 cases.

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