Editorial – 6 Mar 2019

You may remember that in September of last year, we carried a number of stories on the investigation into Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust’s maternity unit deaths.

In brief, a CQC inspection led to urgent enforcement action following concerns for patient safety being identified at the unit.  This was on the heels of an ongoing inquiry which had been commissioned by Jeremy Hunt in 2017 – but this was the seventh such inquiry into the safety of the care provided at the unit.  One which initially chose only to look into 23 cases where a mother or baby had suffered serious harm or death, but by November of last year had broadened to consider 100 cases.  The trust was then placed under special measures by current Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock.

Throughout the most recent inquiry, several families whose cases were being investigated raised dissenting voices. They strongly objected to the involvement on the inquiry review panel of members of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – whom they said would have had a vested interest in covering up failings at the hospital.

I can not imagine the pain that many of the families have been through – young babies have died wholly avoidable deaths, mothers have been left injured and traumatised – yet they have had the tenacity to stand and make their voices heard, some for many years.  That they have had to have such active roles in this process is horrendous.  This week saw the entire inquiry review panel disbanded, the reason for which was given as “feedback from the families” by NHS Improvement.

My thoughts are with the families, as this is not the end of their fight.  That day will not come until they are given the answers they need and the assurance that lessons have truly been learnt.

Lauren Sowerbutts

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