Review finds maternity care at two hospitals in South Wales ‘has long way to go’

Maternity services provided by an NHS board have a “long way to go” before they can be declared safe for mothers and babies, according to a review panel.

An independent panel was appointed to oversee improvements at maternity units run by Cwm Taf University Health Board after 22 neonatal deaths and five stillbirths were unearthed at two hospitals in South Wales.

On Tuesday the panel’s quarterly review said the number of cases being looked at had now more than tripled to around 150 incidents between 2016 and 2018, including 43 which were previously considered potentially serious.

It also said while progress had been made on changes to maternity care, feedback from staff and patients suggested “there remains a need to change the underlying culture and values which were so shockingly revealed” in a previous report.

The panel’s review said: “There is clearly a long way to go before a systematic assurance process can be relied on as the basis for reporting to the minister.”

The Welsh Government’s Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said while he was satisfied of progress he also believed “a considerable amount of work is still required”.

He said: “There is clearly still a considerable way to go to address the fundamental issues and concerns which have come of light within the health board. I appreciate this has been a very difficult time for all staff concerned.”

Cwm Taf’s maternity services were put into special measures in April after a report by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives found staff were under “extreme pressure” and worked under “sub-optimal” clinical and managerial leadership.

Low staffing levels, lack of support for junior doctors and lack of awareness of guidelines were also criticised.

A separate report said some women’s suspicions and concerns about their pregnancies were ignored by staff, which then led to tragic outcomes including stillbirth and neonatal death of their babies.

One woman told the report: “I’m broken from the whole experience, the lack of care and compassion.

“That terrible experience I was put through because of the staff that treated me. That experience will stay with me forever.

“I felt worthless, like I did not matter – that’s how I felt.”

The report also said many women and families received no bereavement counselling or support after the loss of a baby, and continue to experience emotional distress.

Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies AM called on the Welsh Labour government to ensure Cwm Taf’s maternity services did not “languish” in special measures like another health board currently under their control, Betsi Cadwaladr.

Mr Davies said: “It is a damning verdict on the Welsh Labour Government that the health board that they’ve been running for the last four years has seen the biggest increase in cancelled operations.

“Clearly the Welsh Labour Government has failed to run North Wales’ health board and it is concerning to hear that they are struggling to get Cwm Taf maternity services out of special measures.”

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