Minister confirms independent inquiry into maternity scandal to look at 900 more cases

An independent inquiry into Britain’s biggest ever maternity scandal is looking at 900 cases, according to a health minister.

Nadine Dorries (pictured) confirmed the increased number of potentially relevant cases to the Ockenden Review into baby deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust as she responded to a Commons debate on the issue.

It had been previously thought the review was looking at more than 600 cases linked to poor care, going back 40 years, but Ms Dorries said it “wasn’t 600 at all” in relation to the interim findings and the number is greater.

Ms Dorries also revealed that the Ockenden Review is now expected to conclude at the end of the year.

Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was “deeply shocking” to hear of the new details.

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Dorries said: “The original terms of reference covered the handling of 23 cases, the terms of reference have since been updated and were published in November to reflect the expanded scope of the review.

“The review team will be in touch over the following weeks with the affected families to ensure they are appropriately supported throughout the process because I am afraid I have to inform (Conservative MP Lucy Allan) and the House that the additional cases have been identified and a total number stands now at 900 cases and that may be relevant to review.

“A small number of those are going back 40 years.”

She added: “But I’m sure the honourable lady will understand that now, unlike Morecambe Bay which I think was a small number of cases, 900 cases in terms of a review will take considerably longer in terms of time. And that is why there has been no report so far.

“And also, in terms of the interim findings, it wasn’t 600 at all, the number is greater and it is appropriate that while this very important body of work is taking place that we don’t influence it or comment on it, and that we let Donna Ockenden get on with her work which is vitally important and essential.”

Ms Dorries admitted that this announcement is “a huge increase from the original number of cases”.

“We’re supporting her in doing that with the additional support that she needs now due to the additional numbers that have been identified,” she told MPs.

Mr Hunt said: “Does she also recognise that whilst it will take more time, from the families’ point of view, they would also like to see it resolved as quickly as possible?”

Ms Dorries replied: “The Department is liaising closely with Donna Ockenden in terms of support, her support, what she needs going forwards, to conclude this as soon as possible for the sake of the families.

“But as Mr Hunt will understand, the review cannot be rushed, it has to be done properly and thoroughly and we have to get to the bottom of this and that is why Donna Ockenden is being supported in the way that she is. Anything she needs, she will have to get this review concluded successfully.

“In terms of the conclusion of the review, we are expecting it to conclude at the end of the year, at which point the Government will work closely with NHS England and Improvement to consider the next steps.”

The health minister added that she has asked to meet with the interim chief executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust to see that steps that have been put in place are working.

Ms Dorries said: “While still more work is needed, staffing has increased, morale and governance have improved and I expect the CQC to keep a close eye and a close watch on what is going on.

“To ensure that the tragic cases that the Ockenden review is listening to are not repeated anywhere else, that has to be the objective of this. Women deserve a better maternity experience and that is what we are determined to achieve.”

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