'If you hadn't done X, your baby may have lived': Failure to listen to families 'key issue' in Shropshire baby deaths scandal

The former senior midwife leading an independent inquiry into baby deaths at scandal-hit Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said a failure to listen to families was the key issue.

Donna Ockenden, top right, was giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee, chaired by Jeremy Hunt
Donna Ockenden, top right, was giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee, chaired by Jeremy Hunt

Donna Ockenden told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee there was a "culture" of blaming parents at SaTH.

Last week, Ms Ockenden's interim report identified a number of "deeply worrying themes" about staff at the trust.

Ms Ockenden told the committee on Tuesday: "I think the one issue that stands out above everything else was a failure to listen to families.

"We've come across a lot of families who tried really hard to get the system - the trust - to listen to them.

See also:

"They (the parents) carry on their shoulders a large amount of guilt now because they feel they failed to get the system to listen to them."

Ms Ockenden told the committee, chaired by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt: "I can't stress it enough - listening or not listening to families is absolutely key.

"We know many, many families tried over many years to get the trust structure... to listen.

"We have seen lots of examples already of dismissive letters, very unkind letters.

"There was also a culture of 'this is your fault' to the mothers - 'If you hadn't done X, your baby may have lived'."

She added: "Mothers and fathers will tell you they have carried that guilt for years."

Former senior midwife Donna Ockenden said the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust had its own mechanism for dealing with complaints, which did not follow national guidance, and was only ever engaged when legal action was threatened or a complaint was made.

She told the Commons Health and Social Care Committee: "What we found is that when they (the trust) did investigate, if they did investigate, they often just hung their hat on the wrong hook.

"They picked something that certainly wasn't the cause and got diverted - they failed to learn.

"It's not one issue - it's not that they tried to sweep things under the carpet, it's not that they just didn't listen to families, there were multi-faceted things going on across all professions."

Concluding her evidence, Ms Ockenden added: "Childbirth and the arrival of a new baby should be the most joyous event in a family's life, and it is simply unacceptable if what we leave along the way are instead broken families and women who carry guilt on their shoulders for many years.

"I will continue to speak out on this for as long as is necessary."

Asked by committee chairman Jeremy Hunt if she accepted that Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust promoted "normal birth at any cost", Gill Walton, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives told MPs: "It does sound like it was."

Asked if there may be a problem in other parts of the NHS as well, Ms Walton replied: "I think it's changing and I think it's really important all the teams work together with women at the centre of care and don't promote one type of birth over another."

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News