Shropshire inquiry prompts demands for overhaul of NHS maternity services

10th December 2020 Clinical Negligence

An official report on the standard of maternity services in Shropshire has identified significant failures in care which led to the avoidable deaths of a large number of mothers and babies over the last 20 years.

The damning report found that more than a dozen women and over 40 babies died at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust due to a culture which denied women choice and provided them with unsafe care. In some cases, women were denied caesarean sections when needed or were encouraged to deliver their babies in standalone midwifery led centres far from hospitals without being warned of the risks.

In addition, the trust failed to investigate serious incidents and the same mistakes were made repeatedly.

The inquiry into maternity services in Shropshire is investigating 1,862 cases where poor care has been identified. These cases include pregnancies resulting in avoidable stillbirths, maternal deaths and babies being born with brain injuries, including cerebral palsy.

At JMW we represent families whose babies have been stillborn due to failings in maternity care and we understand the overwhelming devastation this causes.

We also represent children who have been born with a brain injury as a result of substandard management of their delivery and they often require lifelong care.

Our investigations often reveal that stillbirths and birth injuries would have been avoided with appropriate monitoring during labour and earlier delivery which sometimes means a caesarean section or instrumental delivery should have been offered. However, the report found that the numbers of caesarean sections performed by the Trust were consistently 8-12% below the national average which indicates a culture of promoting "normal births" at any cost in order to keep caesarean section rates low.

Shockingly, the inquiry also highlighted cases where women were blamed for the deaths of their babies or they were dismissed or not listened to when they raised concerns.

We await the full report on all 1,862 cases which is due to be published in 2021. In the meantime, we can only hope that the trust immediately acts upon the recommendations made and NHS maternity services across the country reflect upon how they can improve care for women and babies in order to prevent any further avoidable harm. 

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Katie Nolan is an Associate located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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