The independent review into the maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust has been ongoing for a number of years following commission in 2017 by the then Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. What started as a relatively small investigation has since been expanded to the review of over 1800 individual cases.

Last night saw BBC Panorama shine a spotlight on what has become an investigation which has identified far reaching failings by the maternity service offered to families which has sadly led to a number of devastating outcomes.

Donna Ockenden, Chair of the Independent Maternity Review released her interim review in December 2020 which highlighted her findings and recommendations. Whilst the investigation continued Ms Ockenden felt that urgent implementation of actions highlighted needed to be brought to the attention of the hospital trust together with other maternity services across England. Recommendations within the report were classed as ‘Immediate and Essential Actions’ for the Hospital Trust and ‘Local Actions for Learning’ were also provided for the wider maternity services across the NHS.

Her report identified many traumatic births at the Trust which sadly included the deaths of babies as a result of excessive force of forceps and stillbirths that could have been avoided. It was also noted that there was evidence within the medical records and correspondence that mothers were being blamed rather than considering issues within the maternity department itself. The attitude of staff was one lacking in compassion and kindness, at a time when families needed this the most. This was considered in the report as being ‘one of the most disappointing and deeply worrying themes…the fact that this was found to be lacking…is unacceptable and deeply concerning’.

The report considered the management of labour and traumatic births. Significant problems were highlighted with the monitoring during labour of the fetal heart rate. The failure to monitor appropriately can lead to catastrophic consequences including brain injury, cerebral palsy and sadly death of the baby.

Immediate actions placed upon the hospital trust following release of the initial report were:-

Safety must be strengthened

The voices of women and their families must be heard

Complex pregnancies must be Consultant led with management plans put in place

Risk assessment of women must take place at every antenatal contact

Fetal wellbeing must be monitored closely by those well qualified to do so

Women must be able to make informed consent about all their maternity care

The second report of the Independent Maternity Review is due to be released no later than 24 March 2022 and it is likely that more harrowing cases will come to light.  It is hoped however that the report will bring to the forefront the failings that have occurred in a maternity setting and also highlight learning that can be implemented across the wider maternity services in the NHS. 

Freeths solicitors have considerable experience and expertise in representing and securing settlements for clients in cases where there has been substandard care leading to stillbirth, death during pregnancy, neonatal death, brain injury and cerebral palsy.

Karen Reynolds, head of the Derby Clinical Negligence team, has settled multiple multimillion pound settlements in various cerebral palsy claims. These claims often focus on the mismanagement of the Claimant’s birth at the NHS Trust hospital resulting in the Claimant suffering with cerebral palsy and needing care and support for the rest of their life.

Karen was part of the landmark case of Webster v Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust [EWCA Civ 62] which was overturned by a ruling in the Court of Appeal and found in favour of parent choice. The case highlighted that patients have a right to be informed about the risks involved in their treatment and make decisions accordingly. Had the claimant’s mother been able to make informed consent in respect of the delivery of her child then the subsequent significant brain injury and disabilities suffered would have been avoided.

Karen is also accredited to be on the panel of solicitors for AvMA, Action against Medical Accidents, an independent patient safety charity, providing advice and support to patients.

If you are concerned about care which you or a loved one have received, please contact a member of our team for a free, informal discussion:-

Karen Reynolds, Partner: 0345 272 5677 or 07717 730834. Or by email to karen.reynolds@freeths.co.uk

Siobhan Genever, Director: 0345 030 5774 or 07971 586185. Or by email to siobhan.genever@freeths.co.uk

Claire Cooper, Senior Associate: 03 45 274 6830 or 07811 744463. Or by email to claire.cooper@freeths.co.uk

Naomi Solomon, Senior Associate: 0845 030 5742 or 07973 881711. Or by email to naomi.solomon@freeths.co.uk

Lisa Goulding, Trainee Legal Executive: 0845 050 3277 or 07973 891656. Or by email to lisa.goulding@freeths.co.uk

For further information please also visit our website at: http://www.freeths.co.uk/legal-services/individuals/clinical-negligence/

 The initial findings released in December 2020 can be found at https://www.donnaockenden.com/downloads/news/2020/12/ockenden-report.pdf