Recruitment, new equipment and digital record system among measures to improve maternity care at Shropshire's hospitals

Measures being taken to improve maternity services at the county's major hospitals include recruiting staff, buying new training equipment and bringing in a new electronic record system, a new committee has heard.

The new Ockenden assurance committee, which has been created to oversee required improvements at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital, met for the first time online today.

It has been created following 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.

In December, the review identified 27 local actions needed to improve the county’s maternity services, as well as seven which are recommended for across England.

Opening the meeting, SaTH's chair Dr Catriona McMahon said: "The report made it clear that this trust had not listened well enough over time. It is our intent to listen.

"The intention of this committee is to make sure that the plans do deliver and that there's a range of voices feeding into those plans.

"The purpose of this assurance committee is not to ask the question 'why did it happen in the past?'.

"It is to ask the question 'are we doing enough to ensure that it doesn't happen today - and it doesn't happen in the future'."

Louise Barnett, chief executive at SaTH, sits on the new committee alongside representatives from other organisations, including Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Maternity Voices Partnership, clinical commissioning groups, and Healthwatch.

Dr Mei-See Hon, clinical director for maternity services, addressed its members about the actions that had already been taken by the trust to address some of the issue raised, as well as those planned for the future.

She told the committee that maternity notes and records would be going digital under a new electronic system due to roll out in June.

Two bereavement midwives have also been put in place, while steps are being taken to try and recruit a specialist midwife with expertise to focus on developing and improving the practice of fetal monitoring – where tools are used to monitor and interpret the baby's heartbeat.

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Dr Hon said a lead obstetrician was in place to focus on this duty, but the trust is currently advertising for the midwife job.

Speaking about the role, she said: "She can work alongside the midwives clinically on a day-to-day basis, teaching on the ground.

"There is still a level of support to midwives on a day-to-day basis, this is just additional."

Dr Hon said consultant-led ward rounds had also been taking place twice a day, and the trust is in the process of buying further training simulation equipment.

The committee heard that audits would be carried out to check whether consultant obstetricians are involved in all complex pregnancies.

And Dr Hon said women have access to information leaflets and videos about pregnancy and labour on the trust's website, while an app is also available and online antenatal classes have been held.

The new committee plans to meet monthly, with the public invited to watch meetings online and submit questions afterwards.

In total, there are 52 specific actions for the trust to implement to meet the actions required by the Ockenden inquiry.

The trust is also working with Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, from Nottinghamshire, to bring forward improvements in maternity services.

The initial findings of the Ockenden inquiry, which were published in December, detailed a lengthy list of failings in care at the trust, drawing some harrowing conclusions about the experiences of families involved in the review.

Grieving mothers being blamed for their loss and 'missed opportunities' to prevent serious harm were among them.

Following its launch by then Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017, the number of cases being considered has risen from 23 to 1,862.

The review's full report is expected to be published later this year.

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