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January 16th 2020

Birth Negligence

Shrewsbury Maternity Scandal: How can 900 cases of potential poor maternity care have been missed, and how will families now be supported?

Amanda Stevens

Amanda Stevens

Managing Director, London and South

Shrewsbury Maternity Scandal: How can 900 cases of potential poor maternity care have been missed, and how will families now be supported?

The ongoing investigation into four decades of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust continues to deepen with 900 cases of potential poor care of mothers and babies now being reviewed.

The ongoing investigation into four decades of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust continues to deepen with 900 cases of potential poor care of mothers and babies now being reviewed.

An independent inquiry into maternity care at the Trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford’s Princess Royal, was ordered by the Government and was initially established to examine just 23 cases of concern.

A leaked internal report last year revealed clinical malpractice had been allowed to continue unchecked since the 1970s, with a ‘toxic’ culture of repeated failings by doctors, midwives and hospital bosses.

It singled out the deaths of at least 42 babies and three mothers between 1979 and 2017 and said more than 50 children also suffered permanent brain damage after being deprived of oxygen during birth.

A further 47 other cases of substandard care were highlighted and it was revealed that a further 600 cases would be investigated.

Now, Nadine Dorries, a Health Minister, has told the House of Commons the total number of suspected cases currently stands at 900.

Investigations have come too late as families need support from the start

This is a deepening scandal and one which, in my mind, raises two appalling and completely unacceptable situations.
Firstly my thoughts are with the many families affected.

Ms Dorries has said that the review team will be contacting them in the coming weeks and that they will be ‘supported throughout the process.’ That support comes far, far too late.

The investigation has highlighted errors such as babies being left brain-damaged as staff failed to realise or act upon signs that labour was going wrong, or left brain-damaged from group B strep or meningitis, which can often be treated by antibiotics.

From our experience, we know that families left caring for children who suffer life-limiting and life-long injuries from negligent care at birth need all the support they can get.

The quicker dedicated and professional support can be secured, the sooner measures can be put in place to ensure the child, and those around them, benefit from the best possible standard of life.

Sadly, apart from the legal process, there are no other means for families to obtain compensation when serious injuries are caused due to negligent medical care. Hundreds of families may have been denied this compensation and support, some for many years.

This investigation has already highlighted a lack of transparency, honesty and communication with families when things went wrong.

It said this led to a lack of shared learning and “repeated mistakes often similar from case to case”.
It means hundreds of lives have possibly been forever harmed, and no support has ever been offered. As scandals, they don’t come much worse.

This brings me on to my second major concern, and that is the lack of thorough investigation and honesty in search of the greater good – reduced injuries and deaths to mothers and children on maternity wards across the UK.

At Hudgell Solicitors we see far too many cases where NHS Trusts are unwilling to hold their hands up to serious errors. The focus for many sadly remains on protecting their own reputation and preventing damages settlements for families.

In our work we’ve supported many families to secure multi-million pound damages settlements to compensate them for injuries suffered to children due to negligence in care at birth. Not one of them has seen that money as a ‘win’.

In fact, each and every one would gladly give all that money back to have walked out of hospital with a healthy child.

It is quite timely that next week I will head to the National Maternity Safety Conference in Birmingham, organised by Baby Lifeline, a charity which does tremendous work in campaigning for improved maternity care across the UK.

It will see all involved and with an interest in improving national maternity care come together to share experiences and best practice, with a common goal of working together towards a safer future.

This report and investigation, I am sure, will be discussed , and I for one sincerely hope it will be used as an example of how a lack of transparency across healthcare, and a lack or serious, strong investigation, continues to cost lives, and must not be allowed to continue.

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