UK report: Dozens of babies died in maternity scandal

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Dozens of babies and three mothers died at hospitals in England over four decades because of major staff failings, in what experts said could become the biggest maternity scandal in the history of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), reports The New York Times.

The problems at the facilities that make up the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust from 1979 to 2017 resulted in dozens of stillbirths as well as the deaths of newborns and women who had just given birth, an independent investigation ordered by the government in 2017 has found. It also cited more than 50 cases of injury.

The report says the findings were summarised in an interim report which identifies hundreds of cases of repeated failings and clinical errors by doctors, midwives and hospital bosses, as well as a lack of transparency and honesty.

Lawyers representing some of the families affected by failings in maternity services at Shropshire's main hospitals have called for lessons to be learned following the deaths of mothers and babies amid a “toxic” culture.

According to a Shropshire Star report, the findings detail a catalogue of concerns and reveals that dozens of babies and mothers are thought to have died or been left disabled due to poor care at the trust, which runs Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Telford's Princess Royal Hospital.

It says children were left with permanent disability, that staff 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.

Specialist medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have represented a number of families affected by maternity services failings while receiving care from the trust. They have expressed their concern at the findings, which also warned that lessons were not being learned and staff were uncommunicative with families.

Lisa Jordan, head of medical negligence at Irwin Mitchell, said in the report: “The scale of the problems connected to maternity services is extremely worrying. Not only are the issues identified in the report of great concern but many seem to have been avoidable. That lessons appear not to have been learned and the situation has arguably been allowed to turn into the biggest maternity scandal in the NHS – following issues at Mid Staffordshire and Morecambe Bay hospitals – is staggering. While sadly it is too late for the families involved it is now vital that decisive action is taken to ensure that lessons are finally learned. Hopefully others will then not have to suffer the heartbreak of losing a loved one through maternity failings.”

The New York Times report (Registration required)

Shropshire Star report

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