By Angel Woo, Staff Writer.
An internal report leaked by The Independent has revealed that at least 42 babies and three mothers died at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SATH) over a forty year period. The investigation also found that due to oxygen deprivation during birth, over 50 children were given permanent brain damage, and another 47 cases were classified as “substandard care”.
A senior NHS source described it as ‘…the largest known maternity scandal in the UK’, and said it is ‘significantly larger than Morecambe Bay – early findings show dozens of avoidable deaths’. The Morecambe Bay scandal concerned the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother at Cumbria’s Furness General Hospital from 2004 to 2013.
The report alleges clinical malpractice happened repeatedly at the hands of doctors, nurses, and higher ranking staff members. It seems that complaints were not properly dealt with by staff, as the follow-up investigations were not conducted properly. Grieving families were allegedly treated with ‘ a distinct lack of kindness and respect’, staff referred to the deceased babies as ‘it’, and parents were also told that their case was the only one of its kind.
One of the most shocking details of the report states that a baby’s body was left to decompose for weeks, thus preventing the mother to see her child one last time before the burial.
The leaked report identifies a number of critical problems and failures, such as: the lack of informed consent from mothers on choosing to deliver in midwifery-led units, a long-term lack of communication, transparency and honesty between the families and staff, the failure to recognise “serious incidents”, and a generalised lack of kindness to the families who “experienced significant loss and tragedy”.
The report largely stems from the efforts of the Stanton-Davies family, who lost their baby girl Kate at SATH’s Ludlow unit in March 2009 because of a failure by midwives to monitor her condition. It was later discovered that the mother and daughter should not have been there in the first place, as mother Rhiannon Davies should have been treated as a high-risk pregnancy.
The couple fought for a decade, first to ensure an inquest into Kate’s death, and then to challenge the NHS to re-examine how her death had been investigated. They later wrote to the then health secretary Jeremy Hunt, alongside another couple who had also lost their baby after staff ignored signs of a serious infection. Mr Hunt ordered an independent investigation in 2017 into 23 families who were treated at the trust, but it soon came to light that dozens of families had been affected by the systematic failures.
Paula Clark, interim chief executive at the Shrewbury and Telford Hospital Trust apologised to the affected families, saying: “We have been working, and continue to work, with the independent review into our maternity services … “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.”