Manchester Health Bosses Apologise for Maternity Scandal that’s ‘Worse than Morecambe Bay’

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa
AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

Bosses at two Manchester hospital maternity units have apologised after seven babies and three women died in the space of just eight months. The trust responsible for the hospitals has also pledged to spend more money on staff following criticisms by an independent report.

According to the Manchester Evening News, four babies and two mums died at Oldham hospital between December 2013, and three babies and one mother dying at North Manchester hospital during the same period.

Following the deaths, the Pennine Acute Trust, which runs the hospitals, called in independent investigators to review the deaths. It found that improvements to the services offered by both hospital needed to be made following the deaths of the babies, but ruled that there were “no deficiencies” in the care of the women.

The trust has apologised for the deaths and insisted that lessons have been learned. Gill Harris, chief nurse at the Pennine Acute Trust, said: “We owe it to these families to demonstrate we have listened to what they have told us. We are deeply, deeply sorry for all the upset we have caused.

“We want to show them that we are learning from their concerns and we cannot express how sorry we are that they have had to go through this.”

She added: “The review of the incidents found that whilst the maternal deaths did not appear to be the result of deficiencies in care, further scrutiny and improvement was required from the review of neonatal deaths.

“The improvement plan is being continually refreshed to ensure our services are safe, effective, responsive and well-led. As part of the plan, we have invested in staffing and signed up to a number of national and regional quality programmes.

“We have reviewed a number of our policies, we are improving our staff training, and we are investing £1m in strengthening our maternity workforce by recruiting 40 new healthcare assistants to support patients and our midwives on our labour wards.”

But the relatives of those who died are angry with the way the whole scandal has been handled – from allowing it to happen in the first place, to the way in which the report was commissioned without the relatives being informed.

Martin Beaty, whose newborn son Thomas died of a fractured skull at Royal Oldham last April after a botched forceps delivery said: “Ten deaths in eight months is sickening. But I’m not surprised. The standard of care we received during and after Thomas died gives me zero confidence in their organisation, structure and accountability.

“I’m angry we were not informed, even if out of courtesy. It feels like they’re trying to cover each other’s backs.”

Alison Ziemniak, sister of Lisa Parkisson who died at Royal Oldham last June two days after an emergency caesarean operation said that the Trust only contacted her about the report after it had been approached by Manchester Evening News for comment.

She said that the Trust had invited her in to discuss the report, but that she had refused. “I don’t want to go in there and sit with them. We have never had any support from them.”

“We can put our concerns across at the inquest but if an independent investigation is being done we should have had the right to say whatever our concerns were and get answers to our questions.

“I have worked on my sister’s case myself, I have seen the medical notes, and although I’m no doctor or solicitor or medical expert, I can see that things were not right at all. We are definitely not happy about it.

Ms Ziemniak has also raised concerns over the report not finding faults in relation to the womens’ deaths, as she insists that her sister was poorly cared for. “Her observations were extremely poor. The night she died she was complaining of pain and she was quite agitated but she was given medicine and put to bed and left in a room. The next time someone went in she was just gone.

“When I spoke to Lisa the day before she died she was fine – other than having just had an operation and being in a bit of discomfort. It’s worrying that something like that could happen so quickly.”

The report into maternity provision at the two hospitals found “a notable absence of clinical leadership in both medical and midwifery teams resulting in failure to plan care,” and that risk management was “below standard”. It also found that internal investigations into the incidents had often failed to identify the root causes of the problems, and that recommendations were vague.

It was delivered to the trust just one month after the publication of an inquiry into Morecambe Bay maternity services where a “lethal mix” of failings led to the deaths of one mother and eleven babies over nine years.

But a Royal Oldham Hospital midwife who contacted the Manchester Evening News after reading about the death of baby Thomas told them “It’s worse here than Morecambe Bay. It’s really bad, there have been lots of problems. Babies have died unnecessarily.”

Ms Harris said: “There were failings in care. We cannot undo that. I wish I could. The best I can hope to do is to support the staff to be able to implement these plans.

“The staff are endeavouring to take forward every step of this plan. They have to keep looking and listening.”

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