Police Investigate Deaths of 42 Babies, Three Mothers at NHS Scandal Hospital

Soft blur of the doctor hands use stethoscope to check newborn baby health and take care h
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West Mercia Police has confirmed that they are opening an investigation to see if there could be a criminal case to be brought related to the deaths of at least 42 babies and three mothers at scandal-hit NHS hospitals in England.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is currently the subject of an independent review into preventable mother and baby deaths at their maternity wards in what is believed to be the worst maternity scandal in British history.

The independent review being conducted by Donna Ockenden was commissioned after two sets of parents raised the alarm over the avoidable deaths of their babies. Launched in 2017, the inquiry’s original scope was 23 cases, but that figure swelled to 1,200, some dating back to the 1970s.

An interim report revealed in November 2019 that there were 42 avoidable deaths of babies, of which 22 were stillborn, three died during pregnancy, and there were 17 other infant deaths at the Trust. There were 51 cases of infant brain damage or cerebral palsy that were considered avoidable and 47 instances of substandard care. Three mothers also died at the Trust.

Police will be investigating two hospitals in the Trust, with Geoff Wessell, an assistant chief constable of West Mercia Police, saying on Tuesday, according to The Times: “Today we have met with NHS Improvement, the Department of Health and the independent reviewer to discuss complaints made against Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust in relation to maternity services and provision. The review is ongoing.

 “We can confirm that a police investigation will be conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the Trust or any individuals involved. The investigation is now live so we are unable to comment any further at this time.”

The parents of Kate Stanton-Davies, a newborn who died in 2009, said that they had been working with the police for 18 months to get an investigation launched.

Kate’s father Richard Stanton told the Daily Mail: “For us, this is a really significant turn of events. I would like to hope this is a real legacy for Kate and obviously the work we’ve done over the last 11 years since we lost her.

“It has to be a good thing that West Mercia Police are now formally investigating the Trust. For years the Trust has seemingly failed to learn from avoidable deaths only for there to be another one.”

The interim report revealed last year that a “toxic” approach to improving maternity care had contributed to 40 years of deaths and serious injury.

The report also revealed a lack of compassion for grieving parents, with hospital staff at times referring to dead children as “it”. In another instance, medics had forgotten that the body of a baby had been returned from the autopsy, with the parents unable to say a final goodbye as the remains had been left in the open air to decompose. Some infants’ deaths were the results of midwives not monitoring heartbeats properly during labour.

Several reports over the past few years suggested that one issue was the Trust’s obsession with “natural” births and its aversion to performing caesarian sections when needed. Parents complained of being pressured by midwives, who ran the units, to have “natural” births. Some said that if their children had been delivered by c-section when it was clear there was a problem, the infants might not have suffered from oxygen-deprived brain damage.

Last year, clinical negligence lawyer Kay Kelly, who is representing some of the bereaved parents, had said: “The sort of cases we’ve worked on over the years have suggested a failure to err on the side of caution. The Trust used to be very proud of the fact that it had a very low caesarian rate compared to other hospitals, and sometimes I’ve wondered if they’ve paid the price for that.”

It is expected that the independent, non-criminal Ockenden inquiry will be completed by the end of 2020.


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