New head of midwifery brought in at Shropshire hospitals to support 'staff absences'

A hospital trust hit by a maternity scandal has brought in a temporary head of midwifery after revealing a number of staff in the department are absent.

Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton
Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton

The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH) says the 'experienced' employee has joined the trust on an interim basis.

But it says it is unable to comment further on the nature of the absences.

It comes as an independent inquiry is looking into more than 1,800 cases of alleged poor maternity care and baby deaths at SaTH.

The initial findings of the Ockenden review detailed a lengthy list of failings in care, drawing some harrowing conclusions about the experiences of families involved in the review.

A spokesman for the trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, said: "An internal communication was sent out this week to our women and children’s division which clarified reporting lines whilst a small number of colleagues are absent from the trust.

"To support those absences, an experienced head of midwifery has joined the trust on an interim basis, and will work with the divisional leadership.

"This additional support will ensure that our services remain safe and operate as normal, and that the trust can continue to make timely progress on our improvement journey.”

Rhiannon Davies, who had campaigned for the Ockenden review to be launched, has questioned why the trust had not announced the changes publicly, and why it instead was being left to journalists to explain what was happening.

She said that transparency from the trust is key in winning back the confidence of the public.

She said: "Considering it concerns midwifery which is under such scrutiny and is so highly supported at SaTH in terms of focus from NHS Improvement and NHS England, how can it be that something so significant has happened?

Open

"There is also the issue of the obfuscation and the lack of transparency.

"Why are they not coming out and telling people what is happening? It is a lack of open and effective communication and it does not give us any confidence that they are making meaningful change."

The Ockenden review was ordered after Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton, whose daughter Kate died shortly after birth in Ludlow in 2009, and Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths from Myddle, who lost their daughter Pippa shortly after she was born in 2016, wrote to Jeremy Hunt outlining their concerns about the trust.

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

A new Ockenden assurance committee, which was created to oversee required improvements, met for the first time online last month and a second meeting has been scheduled next week.

Following the launch of the inquiry 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.

Donna Ockenden’s initial findings have also led to significant action across England and not just in Shropshire, with the NHS confirming landmark funding of £95m last month to address some of the issues raised.

The move, which will result in the recruitment of hundreds more midwives across the country, about 80 consultant obstetricians, and millions for training, was a direct response to the findings of the Ockenden report.

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