Maternity care under scrutiny after deaths
THE deaths of 26 babies over nearly a three-year period are being investigated by a health board.
Cwm Taf University Health Board, which covers Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil, conducted a review of births between January 1, 2016, and the end of September, 2018.
It followed a “drop-off” in the number of incidents that are typically reported by hospital staff over a similar period of time.
The review found 43 cases where there had been an “adverse outcome”, which includes a baby being born early, being small at birth or unwell.
It can also include stillbirth or death, as well as complications with the pregnancy such as the mother suffering a haemorrhage.
Of those 43 incidents, 20 were recorded as stillbirths and six were of babies dying shortly after birth.
The births took place in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital near Llantrisant, Prince Charles Hosptial in Merthyr Tydfil, and at home. During the period more than 10,000 births were recorded by the health board.
Angela Hopkins, interim director of nursing for Cwm Taf, said the health board has faced a number of challenges in recruiting and retaining maternity staff.
But she said the underreporting of incidents was in no way an attempt by staff to hide or fudge figures.
She said: “It is absolutely essential that paperwork is completed to ensure that the services we provide are safe.
“We are looking at all the reasons why there may have been under-reporting and our investigation is yet to be completed.
“We have challenges with our staffing levels in maternity units – just like many others across the UK do at this time.
“But we have exceptionally professional staff. There was no attempt to hide anything or make figures any better or worse.”
A statement from the health board stated: “We have gone back and looked at each of these cases in more detail to find out if all appropriate actions were taken at the time.
“We have almost completed the process, with a small number of case reviews to be finalised.
“Any further information arising from this process will be shared in full with the families concerned and we will provide additional support and any redress as appropriate.
“We take our responsibilities for patients very seriously and are determined to do everything necessary to ensure we provide the best possible care for women and their babies.”
In response, Cwm Taf University Health Board has taken a number of positive actions to strengthen the workforce, including: appointing an additional middle-grade doctor; advertising for additional medical staff including consultants; appointing a consultant midwife; recruiting 15 midwives who will be joining the service over the next few weeks; and getting senior midwife support from neighbouring health boards to support overall staffing levels.
Rhondda AM Leanne Wood has called on the health board to extend the period they are investigating maternity services.
She said: “It is concerning to hear of this review. Inquiries of this nature are rare and are not instigated on a whim.
“It is clear from the recruitment drive that Cwm Taf has embarked on since realising there was a problem that staffing has been an issue in the maternity department.
“I hope the new appointments and the appointments yet to be made have the impact of turning the department around and relieving the pressure on existing staff.
“I would ask if anyone has been affected by this issue and has not been contacted by the health board to make contact with them as soon as possible.”