£500,000 fund for NHS maternity leadership training announced in response to Shropshire hospitals maternity scandal

A £500,000 fund for NHS maternity leadership training has been announced by the Government in response to the review into baby deaths at Shropshire's major hospitals.

The programme will train staff across 126 trusts and 44 local maternity systems and will be rolled out later this year.

It aims to equip maternity leaders with the skills and knowledge to improve workplace culture and facilitate greater collaborative working between nurses, doctors, midwives and obstetricians.

The issue of leadership was identified as a key factor in Donna Ockenden’s independent review into cases of neglect and preventable baby deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH).

The inquiry published its initial findings last month which outlined grieving mothers being blamed for their loss and 'missed opportunities' to prevent serious harm.

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It identified 27 local actions needed to improve maternity services, as well as seven which are recommended for across England.

The review highlighted the issue of disconnect between 'ward and board' in maternity services and the importance of multi-disciplinary training, escalating concerns to senior leaders, and applying lessons learned from serious incidents.

Patient Safety Minister Nadine Dorries said: “The shocking and tragic findings of the Ockenden review highlighted the importance of strengthening maternity leadership and oversight as well as fostering more collaborative approaches within maternity and neonatal services.

“I’m pleased to announce a new training programme for NHS maternity leaders, which will empower nurses, midwives and obstetricians to get the best out of their teams, and deliver safe, world-class care to mothers and their babies.”

The Government says midwifery leadership has already been strengthened with the appointment last year of seven regional chief midwives who will work with local maternity services to provide safer and more personal care for women, babies and their families.

This is in addition to frontline maternity safety champions in every trust.

The new leadership programme will provide training and ongoing support for 700 people, including NHS trust board safety champions, heads of midwifery, clinical directors of neonatal and clinical directors of midwifery, leaders of local maternity systems and regional chief midwives.

The programme training sessions will help maternity leaders to develop a number of skills including effective engagement with service users and families and providing a deep understanding at trust board level of the support required for safe and personalised maternity and neonatal services.

Other areas include enabling effective clinical leadership at all levels and effective utilisation of learning from episodes of error, excellence and near misses.

Alongside the programme, a new core curriculum for professionals working in maternity and neonatal services is being developed by the Maternity Transformation Programme to address variations in skills and safety training across England.

Following the launch of the Ockenden inquiry by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017, the number of alleged cases of poor care at SaTH being considered has risen massively.

It is looking at 1,862 cases – a steep rise from the original 23 – with the majority of incidents occurring between the years 2000 to 2019.

Some involved the deaths of babies and mothers.

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

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