60 Cases of Maternity Failings at NHS Hospital Including Deaths of Babies, Mothers

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Editors Note: This image may have been digitally manipulated for confidentiality to remove any patient identidy data. A newborn baby girl wears an electronic tag as she sleeps in her cot in the maternity unit of Birmingham Women's Hospital on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, …
Christopher Furlong/Getty

As many as 60 mothers and babies may have died or suffered serious injury as a result of failings at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust in what may be the UK’s deadliest failure in a maternity unit.

The maternity ward was already under investigation for failures in the medical treatment of 23 families at the West Midlands, England, trust before more families came forward with complaints stretching back 19 years, as revealed by the Health Services Journal Friday.

Cases include at least four deaths of mothers, infant deaths, and brain injuries and there is concern the failings of the hospital could be putting current families at risk with the latest fatalities happening as recently as December 2017 when two babies and a mother died in unrelated incidents.

A source close to the details of the ongoing problems at the trust told the HSJ that “the scale of this could put Morecambe Bay into the shade,” referring to a 2015 government inquiry which found that the deaths of 11 babies and a mother at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS foundation trust was the result of a “lethal mix” of failures.

The additional cases were identified following the initial Ockenden Review commissioned by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to examine the original 23 cases — one of six reviews since 2017, including one internal review being led by the trust which bereaved and affected families fear may not be objective.

The failings resulted in bereaved mothers including Kayleigh Griffiths, whose daughter Pippa died in 2016 after midwives were said to have ignored signs of a serious infection. Rhiannon Davies, whose daughter Kate died in 2009, said her baby’s death was unavoidable as there existed “acres of learning from avoidable deaths” at the hospital which “no one bothered to learn” from.

HSJ revealed that Shrewsbury and Telford’s former head midwife Cathy Smith, who was criticised in the report on the death of baby Kate Stanton-Davies, had been disciplined for “gross misconduct”.

The Department of Health and Social Care had initially declined to widen the Ockenden Review, headed by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, but is now considering whether to include the additional cases.

A spokesman for the DHSC said: “We take patient safety concerns extremely seriously.

“We have asked NHS Improvement to investigate whether further cases at Shrewsbury and Telford Trust should be considered as part of the Ockenden review, as well as assurance that the trust has taken steps to improve maternity services since these issues came to light in 2016.”

An enquiry into deaths at a separate hospital, the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire, England, published in June found that at least 456 elderly patients had died after being administered fatal opioids despite being at the hospital to convalesce, in what one whistleblower nurse called widespread practised “euthanasia”.

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