The Daily Telegraph

Hundreds more hit by worst maternity scandal

Level of harm ‘on same level as Mid-staffs’, says minister who launched hospitals investigat­ion

- By Laura Donnelly HEALTH EDITOR and Jamie Johnson

‘When I commission­ed this review, I never imagined the scale of avoidable harm and tragedy it would uncover’

THE NHS’S worst maternity scandal may have affected hundreds more families than was first feared, the head of an independen­t inquiry has said.

The review of deaths and blunders in Shrewsbury is now examining more than 1,800 cases, after almost 500 more families came forward, or were identified as having suffered possible harm, in just three months.

Last month, police opened a criminal inquiry into the failings.

Last night, Jeremy Hunt, the former health secretary, said the level of harm emerging now looked on a similar scale to the Mid-staffs scandal, which saw hundreds of needless deaths.

The independen­t review is examining cases in Shrewsbury, dating as far back as the Seventies, in which babies died or suffered brain damage.

When it was launched by Mr Hunt in April 2017, the review was asked to examine 23 cases. Since then, the number of families raising concerns, and failings exposed in medical records, has continued to increase. In April, the inquiry revealed it was looking at almost 1,200 cases. The current total is 1,862.

While some cases date back four decades other alleged failings are as recent as last year. In 2019, a leaked interim report disclosed that the cases include the deaths of at least 42 babies and three mothers.

Concerns were first raised in 2009 when baby Kate Stanton-davies died hours after her birth. A report found her death was avoidable and criticised two midwives.

Many more parents came forward raising fears their children had died or been left brain-damaged because of failings at two hospitals run by Shrewsbury

and Telford Hospital NHS trust. Mr Hunt said: “When I commission­ed this review I never could have imagined the sheer scale of avoidable harm and tragedy it would uncover.

“The level of harm now looks on a similar scale to Mid-staffs, and it must prompt a similar wake-up call for maternity safety across the country. Coming on the back of the Chief Inspector of Hospitals’ sobering warning about ongoing patient harm … ministers must urgently tackle the deep-seated problems facing this trust.”

Donna Ockenden, the head of the review, said a search of paper records and a call for families to come forward had identified another 496 families, taking the total to 1,862. Letters will be sent to the newly identified families asking if they want their case reviewed.

Ms Ockenden said: “The trust has worked closely with the review team throughout and has provided us with all requested informatio­n.”

She added that the inquiry intends to publish its initial recommenda­tions by the end of the year. In order to achieve this, any further cases which emerge will not be taken on by the review, with families asked to raise their concerns directly to the NHS trust.

West Mercia Police announced last month that they had launched an investigat­ion but Ms Ockenden said it will not affect the review’s progress.

Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell said: “The police investigat­ion is being conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the trust or any individual­s involved.”

Families who wish to raise a concern with the trust should contact sath. maternityc­ or the Patient Advice and Liaison Service on 01952 641222, extension 4382.

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