A grieving mother’s search for answers has revealed the biggest maternity scandal in NHS history.
Thirteen years ago, baby Kate Stanton-Davies died while at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. Ever since, her parents, Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton, have been trying to determine the truth about their daughter’s death. The results of the subsequent study have been far worse than anyone had expected.
A total of 201 babies and nine mothers could or would have survived if they had received better care, the study found. Other mothers and children have suffered life-changing injuries. Police are investigating 600 cases related to the scandal, says the Minister of Health.
One of the most horrific statistics is that more than 100 clinical incidents involved the same families because some parents suffered the loss of more than one child in the hands of trust.
Shrewsbury’s toxic culture led to fatal mistakes and inability to learn from them. While the pattern is known from previous health scandals, the specific details are appalling.
Mothers were blamed for problems that led to the deaths of their babies. Women were delayed from being admitted to maternity wards or receiving emergency intervention. Midwives and consultants allowed a “them and us” culture with repeated failures to escalate concerns.
Basics such as monitoring baby’s heart rate or properly administering medications were incorrect. There were too few employees with too little training and incompetent management.
These horrors have been exacerbated by Shrewsbury’s stubborn refusal to acknowledge the extent of its failure, which has led to so many preventable deaths. Some families have had to struggle for 20 years. Several said they initially felt guilty for involving lawyers in revealing the truth – until they realized the shocking scale of the problem.
Yet many of the problems Shrewsbury faces are not unique to this trust. Catastrophic care failures have recently been revealed at Morecambe Bay, Nottingham and East Kent hospitals.
Safe staffing is the key. NHS England has a shortage of 2,000 midwives, which means that women and babies are currently at risk of unsafe care.
In the NHS, the answer is not always to throw more money at the problem. But until NHS England takes safe manning in childbirth seriously, more people will experience unnecessary tragedy on what should be the happiest day of their lives.