The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SATH) have been involved in the biggest maternity scandal to hit the NHS.
A leaked interim report to The Independent revealed that cases have been investigated as far back as 1979. Over 600 cases are now being looked at regarding insufficient maternity care and not all of the families have been informed of the inquiry. SATH has been accused of having a toxic culture of lying and covering up and a failure to learn. The families involved are being represented by Lanyon Bowdler.
According to the report, 42 babies and three mothers died in the maternity units and many babies were left with severe disabilities and brain damage. This has been attributed to the push for natural births rather than caesarean sections. This push began in 2005 when The Royal College of Midwives started the “normal births” campaign due to the decrease in vaginal births since the 1980s. The campaign was stopped in 2017 after the death of 16 babies and three mothers.
The review is being led by Donna Ockenden, after former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called for an investigation into avoidable baby deaths at the trust which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford’s Princess Royal. It has documented various experiences at SATH, which includes several occasions of staff calling babies by the wrong name or referring to a deceased baby as “it”, staff failing to realise labour was not going correctly or not providing efficient resuscitation or treatment to prevent avoidable deaths, as well as showing a lack of care towards bereaved families by telling them they would have to leave if they could not keep the noise levels down following the death of their baby. Some mothers who had just lost a child were told “not to worry as they’ll be pregnant again within the year”.
SATH have claimed that they were not aware of any interim report and Ms Ockenden stated that it was not meant for publication. The report was meant to be internal from NHS Improvement. NHS Resolution stated that maternity claims made up 60% of the £9 billion that the NHS were liable to pay in 2018.
SATH is under new leadership as Paula Clarke was confirmed as the new chief executive in July, following Simon Wright stepping down after the trust being put into special measures. However, it is not just SATH who are to blame, as NHS regulators have known about the problems for over ten years and have not implemented any improvements.
Case Study – Olivia Morris
One of the cases that the trust admitted liability for included that of Olivia Morris. Olivia and her identical twin Beth were born in 2005 at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. Although Beth was born healthily, unfortunately Olivia’s heart rate was not monitored properly and the inefficiency of the delivery cause a brain injury. Olivia was left with cerebral palsy and will need constant care for the rest of her life. She cannot talk or eat and struggles to walk. Olivia and Beth’s mother, Sharon Morris, highlighted how their family life is “not as it should be”.
Sharon Morris said that she was not shocked to find out the details of the report after her and her family’s tragedy.
The Clinical Negligence team here at Switalskis include truly specialist birth injury solicitors who have brought successful claims for victims and their families over many years. They understand the hugely difficult legal process and support their clients throughout.
Suzanne Munroe, Head of the Clinical Negligence Department and an advocate for making birth better, highlights that “the recent developments in the inquiry of SATH are extremely distressing for all those involved. Not only do we act for families devastated by loss but we also work closely with midwives and clinicians, providing training to those professionals and raising awareness of the massive challenges families face, whilst appreciating clinicians are working in very stressful and difficult circumstances. Once again a report of this nature sends out shock waves but it is absolutely vital that all agencies and government work together to prevent the tragedies that have been reported here.”