Investigation expands in to Shropshire Maternity Services

4th October 2018 Clinical Negligence

With Baby Loss Awareness Week around the corner, I was concerned to read that the ongoing investigation in to the maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust has now expanded to include a review of over 100 cases where mothers and babies have suffered injury or death (BBC).

In 2017, Jeremy Hunt, the then Health Secretary, ordered an investigation into the maternity care services at the NHS Trust. Initially, an independent medical expert was appointed to review 23 cases where it was thought that babies had suffered avoidable harm as a result of errors made by maternity staff. However, this shortly increased to 40 cases, and it is now thought that more than 100 historical cases are going to be considered.

The growing number of cases is certainly alarming. Whilst no conclusions have been reached at this stage, it is extremely important that any concerns are thoroughly investigated, and more importantly, that lessons are learned from any issues which do arise.

In the interim, following its own inspection last month, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken urgent enforcement action in light of several “safety fears„ within the trust’s maternity services. As a result, the trust is now required to report what actions they taking to improve services on a weekly basis.

Our specialist team at JMW deal with many cases where babies have suffered avoidable harm at birth. Often, catastrophic injuries occur as a result of fairly basic errors made by maternity staff, such as, failures to recognise reduced fatal movements, poor heart rate monitoring during labour, failures to treat infection and delays in arranging emergency C-sections. Sadly, what is clear to our department, is that these problems are not limited to Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. Unfortunately we see the same mistakes happening over and over again in different NHS trusts across the country, with devastating consequences.

We can only hope that the ongoing review will provide answers for those families affected by such a devastating loss and ensure lessons are learned at this trust. However, with similar concerns being raised in relation to other maternity wards, and ongoing issues nationwide, such as poor staffing levels, I wonder whether it would be more valuable to commission a review in to maternity services, as a whole, across the NHS.

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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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