Nottinghamshire health trust brought in to help improve maternity care in Shropshire

A new committee is being set up and an outside health trust is being brought in to drive forward improvements in maternity services at Shropshire's major hospitals, its boss has revealed.

It comes after initial findings of the Ockenden inquiry – which is looking into more than 1,800 cases of alleged poor care and baby deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust – identified 27 local actions needed to improve the county's maternity services, as well as seven which are recommended for across England.

Speaking to the trust's board, its chief executive Louise Barnett said the new assurance committee, with an independent external chair, would specifically focus on the Ockenden report and its meetings would be held in public to promote transparency.

It will include the views of those affected by failures highlighted in the review.

Meanwhile, it has emerged the trust will also now be working with Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, from Nottinghamshire, to bring forward improvements in maternity services.

Addressing board members, Ms Barnett said: "Essentially the Ockenden report makes the statement about a call to action, demanding there must be an end to investigations, reviews and reports that do not lead to meaningful change.

Louise Barnett, chief executive of SaTH

"This is basically the challenge for the trust. We need to make sure we are listening to the feedback and absolutely taking on board all of the actions and approaches that have been clearly set out so we can implement those for the benefit of the population we serve.

"We need to be confident the actions we are taking are having that impact and they are improving care.

"Given the seriousness of the issues we are dealing with and the feedback we have had, I think an open and transparent approach is absolutely essential.

"It's important this work is not lost within a broader board meeting.

"What we are proposing is that we have a very specific assurance committee that's set up in relation to the Ockenden report, and that would be held in public.

"We're proposing that we would secure an external chair, that there would be attendance by board members and non executives, but also it would involve individuals and groups with expertise and knowledge in particular areas pertinent to a programme of themes which we will cover in relation to the Ockenden report and the actions we are implementing, to increase that level of challenge."

Donna Ockenden, who is leading the independent maternity inquiry

The first full version of the trust’s Ockenden report action plan was also put before the board meeting.

In total, there are 52 specific actions for the trust to implement and the report said "good progress" was being made with most of the required actions.

The trust's partnership with Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will initially last for 12 to 18 months and will focus on maternity leadership development; quality of evidence and reporting; clinical governance approaches; working practice; culture and patient experience.

SaTH has a pre-existing alliance agreement with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and the partnership is designed to work in conjunction with this.

Maternity services at Sherwood Forest Hospitals are rated good overall and outstanding for caring by the Care Quality Commission and King’s Mill Hospital, where maternity services are based, is rated outstanding.

Julie Hogg, the Sherwood chief nurse, is a midwife by background, and the trust has experienced a significant and sustained improvement journey of its own.

She said: “We are delighted to be working with SaTH and know that women, babies and their families across both organisations will benefit from this.”

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