On July 1 2020 West Mercia Police opened a criminal inquiry to investigate failings at two Shropshire hospitals where a number of newborns and mothers died. Described as “Britain’s biggest maternity scandal”, the investigation will focus on two hospitals run by the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust – the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital.
West Mercia Police made the decision to launch the investigation following meetings with NHS officials and the head of an independent review, maternity expert Donna Ockenden, who is assessing 1,200 cases at the hospitals dating back to the 1970s.
“A police investigation will be conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the trust or any individuals” said Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell of West Mercia Police.
Louise Barnett, chief executive of the trust, commented:
We are aware that a police investigation will be conducted by West Mercia Police to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the trust or any individuals involved, following complaints made against the trust in relation to maternity services and provision. I would like to reassure all families affected that we are listening and acting on feedback.
A 40 Year History of Baby and Maternal Hospital Negligence
2009 – 2016
Rhiannon and Richard Stanton Davies, whose daughter Kate died shortly after birth in 2009, and Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths, whose daughter Pippa died shortly after birth in 2016, campaigned to raise awareness of alleged medical negligence at the hospitals.
Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State for Health, ordered an investigation into 23 cases of negligence in the maternity service of the trust. The investigation found so many failings that its scope had to be significantly expanded. Donna Ockenden, a senior midwife and maternity expert, was chosen to lead the review.
In November 2019, A leaked interim report from the review, revealed more than 600 allegations of shocking negligence at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.
The report noted the death of 42 babies and 3 mothers and brain injuries sustained by 51 babies between1979 – 2017.
In January 2020, the number of cases being investigation rose to 900.
On July 1West Mercia Police launched a criminal inquiry to investigate the allegations. Maternity staff at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust could face criminal charges.
Kate’s father Richard Stanton said:
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.
Lucy Allan, Conservative MP for Telford, said:
I welcome the decision by West Mercia Police to launch a criminal investigation.
The number of cases, the horrendous accounts of poor care, and the attitudes of senior management towards those who raised concerns, make this a deeply shocking scandal.
What went wrong at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust?
The interim report noted two significant conclusions:
- The medical care provided to mother and newborn was at times poor, resulting in avoidable injuries and death.
- Investigations into the care provided were poorly conducted and lessons were not learnt – with mistakes being repeated regularly.
In the interim report Donna Ockenden commented:
“No apology will be sufficient or adequate for families who lost loved ones to avoidable deaths, or whose experience of becoming a parent was blighted by poor care and avoidable harm.”
The interim report highlighted negligence associated with:
- Poor management of labour: Babies left brain-damaged because staff failed to realise or act upon signs that labour was going wrong.
- A failure to adequately monitor heartbeats and other signs of foetal distress during labour or assess risks during pregnancy
- Poor assessment and treatment of infection: Babies left brain-damaged from group B strep or meningitis that can often be treated by antibiotics.
- Poor communication between parents and the Trust: Many families “struggling” to get answers around “very serious clinical incidents” for many years
- Carelessness when created documents: “the trust made mistakes with their baby’s name and on occasions referred to a deceased baby as ‘it'”.
- Significant Lack of Empathy: One family who was told they would have to leave if they did not “keep the noise down” when they were upset following the death of their baby.
The lapses in care may be indicative of serious problems in maternity services in the region. A new report revealed Neonatal mortality rates being higher in Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Black Country than anywhere else in England and Wales.
At 9.8 per cent Staffordshire, Shropshire and the Black Country had the highest mortality rate for very premature babies in England and Wales; this is almost double the lowest rate in England and Wales, 4.9 per cent at North Central & North East London. The average across England and Wales is 6.8 per cent.
£40 million paid in compensation for lapses in baby and maternal care
In December 2019 it was revealed that 82 claims were made against the trust, with 52 cases settled at a total cost of £47.5m, including £39.2m in compensation.
The Shropshire Maternity Scandal appears to reflect the escalating spend on clinical negligence claims by the NHS. According to NHS Resolution, the NHS paid £2.4bn (€2.8bn; $3.1bn) in clinical negligence claims in 2018-19. This equates to about 2% of the entire budget for the NHS in England (roughly £115bn).
Why choose Devonshires Claims to support your childbirth injury compensation claim?
If it can be shown that the treatment given to a mother or baby – before, during or after birth, fell below the standards of reasonably competent health care professional, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.
If you feel that the care you or your child received prior to, during or after birth was negligent, you may decide to bring a claim in order to secure justice and compensation for yours and your child’s injuries. Speak to one of our medical negligence solicitors who specialise in birth injuries.
The birth injury or negligence could be associated with:
- Inadequate monitoring of the baby or mother
- Misdiagnosing a serious condition
- Mistakes made by a surgeon or anaesthetist eg. cuts to the bladder, ureter and bowel injuries sustained during Cesarian sections.
- A poor standard of care during the delivery resulting in cuts, bruising, hip and shoulder damage and fractures to a baby
- Failure to treat or adequately treat serious post-birth complications in the mother eg. fissures, negligence associated with birth tears and /or episiotomy, poor stitching
- Failure to identify and treat secondary infections or other infections eg Group B Strep infections
- Oxygen deprivation to a baby resulting in Cerebral Palsy
- Placenta or parts of the placenta retained
- Serious birth trauma to mother or baby
Devonshires Claims support victims of medical negligence by providing:
- A free no-obligation case evaluation
- A no win no fee agreement
- A network of medical experts and specialist medical negligence barristers
- Over 20 years’ experience in securing justice and compensation especially for complex injuries such as child brain injuries requiring life-long care.