Extent of NHS maternity failures may never be known, says expert behind investigation

The expert behind an investigation into the largest NHS maternity scandal in its history believes it is unlikely the full extent of the failures will ever be known.

Writing for The Independent, midwife Donna Ockenden (pictured) warned it is unlikely that records which go back more than two decades will be accessible to the inquiry into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

“It is important that families understand that the further back in time we go, the less likely we are to be able to access health records since health records in the NHS are routinely kept for 25 years. After that time it is unlikely we will be able to access records,” she wrote.

Ms Ockenden added she will strive to get answers for families.

“Please be assured, however, that your story will be heard and we will continue to try and get you the answers you deserve,” she said.

It is believed the number of cases involved is now more than 800 and includes the death of dozens of babies, as well as more than 50 children who suffered brain damage, according to the Independent.

Ms Ockenden appealed for parents with concerns about poor maternity care to come forward after a report last week revealed babies and mothers died amid major failings at the hospital trust.

The report, leaked to The Independent, found children were left with permanent disability amid substandard care.

Staff at the trust routinely dismissed parents’ concerns, were unkind, got dead babies’ names wrong and, in one instance, referred to a baby who died as “it”.

In another case, parents were not told their baby’s body had arrived back from the post-mortem examination, and it was left to decompose so badly that the family never got to say a final goodbye.

The interim update report – also seen by the PA news agency – comes from an independent inquiry ordered by the Government in July 2017 which was launched by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The inquiry was launched following the efforts of Rhiannon and Richard Stanton Davies, whose daughter Kate died shortly after birth in 2009, and Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths, whose daughter Pippa died shortly after birth in 2016.

Until now, Morecambe Bay, which saw the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother at Cumbria’s Furness General Hospital between 2004 and 2013, was the worst ever maternity scandal in the history of the NHS.

Paula Clark, interim chief executive at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, said: “On behalf of the trust, I apologise unreservedly to the families who have been affected.

“I would like to reassure all families using our maternity services that we have not been waiting for Donna Ockenden’s final report before working to improve our services.

“A lot has already been done to address the issues raised by previous cases.

“Our focus is to make our maternity service the safest it can be. We still have further to go but are seeing some positive outcomes from the work we have done to date.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Nursing & Midwifery Council.