PO­LICE TO PROBE UK’S WORST BABY WARDS SCAN­DAL

After Mail ex­posed scale of tragedy, dra­matic in­ter­ven­tion at hos­pi­tals where dozens died or suf­fered brain damage

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Claire Duf­fin and So­phie Bor­land

DE­TEC­TIVES last night opened a crim­i­nal in­quiry into Bri­tain’s big­gest ma­ter­nity scan­dal.

They will in­ves­ti­gate fail­ings at two hos­pi­tals where dozens of ba­bies died or suf­fered brain damage. The dra­matic developmen­t came after po­lice met NHS of­fi­cials and the leader of a probe into 1,200 cases dat­ing back to the 1970s.

It means ma­ter­nity staff at the Shrews­bury and Telford NHS trust could face crim­i­nal charges over a scan­dal whose shock­ing scale was ex­posed by the Daily Mail.

‘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.

‘The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is now live so we are un­able to com­ment any fur­ther at this time.’

Con­cerns were first raised in 2009 when Kate Stan­ton-Davies died six hours after her birth. A re­port found her death was avoid­able and crit­i­cised two mid­wives for fail­ing to re­alise the birth was high risk and

for ig­nor­ing fam­ily con­cerns. Dozens of other par­ents then came for­ward fear­ing that their ba­bies’ deaths at the trust could have been avoided.

They al­leged their chil­dren lost their lives or were left with life­long brain in­juries as a re­sult of poor care at the NHS trust.

An in­de­pen­dent re­view led by Donna Ock­enden was launched by for­mer health sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt in April 2017 to look into 23 cases. But the num­ber has risen dra­mat­i­cally to 1,250 – some as re­cent as last year. It has been de­scribed as one of the NHS’s worst care scan­dals.

Kate’s fa­ther Richard Stan­ton said last night: ‘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.

‘My­self and Rhi­an­non [his part­ner and Kate’s mother] have been work­ing in­tensely with the po­lice over the past 18 months to get this across the line to­day. This is the right thing to have hap­pened.’

Lawyers for the fam­i­lies of vic­tims wel­comed the move.

Laura Pre­ston, a clin­i­cal neg­li­gence so­lic­i­tor with Slater and Gor­don, said: ‘This is a truly shock­ing case that has been grow­ing for a num­ber of years.

‘The in­ves­ti­ga­tions thus far seem to re­veal deep-rooted sys­temic fail­ures that span many years.

‘Crim­i­nal­ity in an NHS set­ting is very wor­ry­ing, but it is im­per­a­tive that when­ever deaths oc­cur on this scale a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion into any num­ber of neg­li­gent ac­tions is un­der­taken to pre­vent fur­ther fu­ture death and/or in­jury.

‘It is clear that the Shrews­bury and Telford NHS Hospi­tal Trust haven’t been open about their fail­ures un­der the ex­pected duty of can­dour that ap­plies to NHS trusts.

‘A re­ally sig­nif­i­cant turn of events’

And prom­ises of lessons be­ing learned have not been kept. The fam­i­lies of the vic­tims will no doubt be very anx­ious to know the out­come of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions, which will re­veal the true ex­tent of this deeply dis­turb­ing scan­dal.’

Louise Bar­nett, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the trust, said it would fully co­op­er­ate.

She added: ‘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.’

The most se­ri­ous cases in­volve the deaths of ba­bies and moth­ers dur­ing child­birth. Oth­ers in­clude ba­bies who suf­fered life­long harm. Some par­ents say they were pres­sured into hav­ing ‘nat­u­ral’ births in mid­wife-su­per­vised units.

A num­ber of deaths have been blamed on mid­wives not mon­i­tor­ing foetal heart rates prop­erly.

Last year a leaked in­terim re­port said there was a ‘toxic’ cul­ture at the ma­ter­nity unit dat­ing back 40 years. The on­go­ing re­view by Miss Ock­enden for NHS Im­prove­ment has so far iden­ti­fied at least 45 avoid­able deaths, in­clud­ing those of 42 ba­bies and three moth­ers.

There were also 51 cases of brain damage or cere­bral palsy in in­fants and 47 fur­ther in­ci­dents of sub­stan­dard care from 1979 to 2017. Miss Ock­enden said her in­quiry team has re­ceived re­ports from peo­ple who were pa­tients at the trust as re­cently as 2019. She said in April: ‘Many of the con­cerns we are look­ing at are among the most se­ri­ous any of my team have seen in their en­tire ca­reers.’

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 to­ward those who raised con­cerns, make this a deeply shock­ing scan­dal. It’s no good dis­miss­ing it as his­toric. Fam­i­lies are liv­ing with the dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences to­day; in any event re­cent cases of poor care are be­ing recorded, as more women come for­ward.’

The Ock­enden in­quiry is ex­pected to con­clude this year.

Any­one with in­for­ma­tion is asked to con­tact po­lice at Ma­jorIn­ci­den­tUnit@west­mer­cia.pnn. po­lice.uk or by call­ing 101. Al­ter­na­tively con­tact the in­de­pen­dent re­view team at ma­ter­ni­tyre­view@don­naock­enden.com

Dead after six hours: Kate Stan­ton-Davies with mother Rhi­an­non

Died after one day: Pippa Grif­fiths

Died on his first day: Jack Burn

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