It’s been revealed that Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust were paid almost £1m for providing good maternity care, despite being at the centre of an investigation that revealed a shocking culture of apathetic care, going back 4 decades, which resulted in numerous infant deaths and life changing injuries for many more and also despite the fact that they’ve actually had to pay out £50m in compensation for maternity errors since 2006.
The BBC have revealed that Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust received £953,391 through the Maternity Incentive Scheme, aimed at improving maternity care and reducing the cost of errors. The scheme is run by NHS Resolution (the legal arm of NHS trusts in England) but, oddly enough, they do not ensure each trust has met its requirements so, in order to receive this money, the trust would have had to self-certify that they had met their 10 safety standards. Shockingly, just weeks later, Care Quality Commission (CQC) Inspectors would rate their maternity care standards as inadequate and even take enforcement action to improve care immediately.
In April 2017, the BBC also reported that they had uncovered at least nine suspicious infant deaths and seven avoidable infant deaths, between September 2014 and May 2016, at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. However, the trust claimed their mortality rates were in line with the national average. The deaths have been largely attributed to a failure to correctly monitor the baby’s heart rate during birth, often mistaking the mother’s heartrate for that of the child. Families claim there may have been more, including another avoidable death in 2013.
The trust’s maternity services had come under severe criticism in 2016 after the NHS England produced a damning report revealing that another baby had died in 2009. The report stated that there was a “lack of a safety culture” at the trust in 2009, for which no one had been made accountable and lessons had not been learned.
Another 2016 report covering all NHS trusts in England said Shrewsbury and Telford had a poor reporting culture and labelled them amongst the worst in the country when it came to learning from mistakes and incidents. However, the medical director at the Shrewsbury and Telford Trust, Dr Edwin Borman, claimed that they were no worse than any other trust when it came to perinatal mortality rates and in fact that they were “at an equivalent level to the rest of the country,” If Dr Borman’s claim are validated then this would paint a rather disturbing picture of the state of maternity care throughout England.
An interim report, leaked in November 2019, attributed the high rate of infant deaths to a ‘toxic culture’ at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital spanning four decades, which resulted in some children being left disabled. It also exposed an apathetic approach to care where staff would often get the names wrong for some of the babies who had died and even referred to one child as “it”. Some grieving family members who were understandably upset after losing their baby were even told they would have to leave if they did not “keep the noise down”.
The investigation into the Trust, commissioned by the then Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was led by maternity expert Donna Ockenden and was initially meant to examine 23 cases but it was quickly established that problems were far more endemic and that there were more than 270 cases over the last 40yrs including 22 stillbirths, 3 deaths during pregnancy, 17 deaths after birth, 3 deaths of mothers, 47 cases of substandard care and 51 cases of cerebral palsy or brain damage.
Ms Ockenden has also criticised an earlier review carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) in 2017, as well as the regulator in charge in 2007.