'I must ensure we do everything we can do now to avoid this ever happening again' – chair of Shropshire hospitals addresses board over maternity scandal

Health bosses have stressed their commitment to improving maternity services at Shropshire's major hospitals after a damning initial report outlining failures over many years.

The Ockenden inquiry into allegations of poor care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), published its initial report last month which identified 27 local actions needed to improve maternity services, as well as seven which are recommended for across England.

Findings outlined grieving mothers being blamed for their loss and 'missed opportunities' to prevent serious harm.

The report, and actions taken so far by the trust, were discussed at a meeting of its board on Thursday.

Opening the discussion, chair of the trust Dr Catriona McMahon said it had failed to learn from mistakes and apologised to the patients and families involved.

She said: "As chair of SaTH and on behalf of the whole board of directors, I want to confirm that the trust embraces this report and all its recommendations unreservedly.

"Personally, and as a healthcare professional, I was shocked to read the report.

"I was shocked to read in the report about the traumatic and devastating experiences of the maternity care that was repeatedly provided by this trust over many years. "I acknowledge that the trust made some serious mistakes.

"I must ensure that lessons are now learned and that we do everything we can do now to avoid this ever happening again."

Hayley Flavell, director of nursing, said the report was "incredibly hard hitting".

"As the director of nursing, I am completely accountable for what I do and don't do and I'm absolutely committed into fulfilling these recommendations, working with my colleagues and other maternity units," she said.

"We've got some good leadership within women and children's.

"We have a robust improvement plan and maternity transformation plan and the Ockenden report is welcomed because it's very clear what we need to achieve.

"I'm confident we can improve our services."

The meeting heard that progress is being made, a commitment was given for any additional investment to improve the quality of services and members were told the trust had strengthened processes to escalate any concerns.

The board was also told more consultants are being recruited and members can expect to receive progress reports.

David Evans, accountable officer for Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, has also said any progress will be monitored by a system wide safety and oversight group, which meets once a month, as well as regular review meetings the CCG holds with SaTH.

In a letter to the board, Gill George, chair of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin Defend Our NHS, said the documents presented to its members at the meeting missed out any attempt to "grapple with the underlying culture" within the maternity service "that allowed deaths and harm to continue over such a long period".

She also appealed to members to "not just nod things through unless you are very confident that the work being done will deliver a safe maternity service".

She added: "My view is that this is unlikely unless SaTH begins by working with bereaved families and by confronting those tough ‘cultural’ issues that have led to the deaths of babies and women."

Following the launch of the Ockenden inquiry by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017, the number of cases being considered – including the deaths of mothers and babies – has risen from 23 to 1,862, with the majority of incidents occurring between the years 2000 to 2019.

The full and long-awaited report by the inquiry team, led by Donna Ockenden, is expected later this year.

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