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Poor care is ‘the norm’ at baby scandal hospitals: Standards are still falling at NHS trust

Standards are still falling at a hospital trust at the centre of a maternity scandal, the watchdog warned last night.

The Care Quality Commission said that poor care is the norm at Shrewsbury and Telford.

Inspectors singled out incompetent leadership and out-of-their-depth staff at the NHS trust, one of the country’s most poorly rated. They found examples of nurses blaming each other for not completing tasks and workers turning a blind eye to poor care on their wards.

Elderly patients at high risk of falls were routinely left unsupervised and staff were turning to out-of-date medical guidelines.

The trust already had an ‘inadequate’ rating and has been in special measures for nearly two years but the commission said its standards had slipped even further in recent months.

In another bid to force it to improve, officials have partnered it up with one of the country’s largest and best performing hospitals. From the beginning of next month, the trust’s day-to-day running will be overseen by University Hospitals Birmingham which is currently rated as ‘good’.

Shrewsbury and Telford is at the centre of the largest maternity scandal in NHS history, with more than 1,800 families reporting poor care including avoidable stillbirths and baby deaths. 

Professor Ted Baker, the watchdog’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: ‘We have repeatedly called for intervention to support improvement at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS trust.

‘Despite this, the trust has not resolved long-standing known issues, and poor patient care has been normalised. This situation must not continue.

‘The trust has not responded satisfactorily to previous enforcement action. We will continue to carefully monitor the trust to determine whether this drives the required change and will take further action if there is no progress.’ 

The watchdog did not specify what action it would take if the trust failed to improve. But it has the power to close it, or at the very least certain departments and wards.

It gave the organisation the same overall inadequate rating as before although the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, which had been performing marginally better and only ‘requires improvement’, was also downgraded to ‘inadequate’.

The trust serves a population of nearly half a million in Shropshire and consists of two hospitals, the Royal Shrewsbury and the Princess Royal in Telford, as well as a number of smaller community hospitals and maternity units.

The inspection report – which followed two spot checks in June – stated: ‘The trust’s issues have been perpetuated by its leaders’ collective failure to demonstrate that they had the skills and abilities to meet the challenges the trust has faced.’

Shrewsbury and Telford has been in special measures since 2018 following another highly critical report. Separately, it is at the centre of a probe into its maternity services led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden.

In June, West Mercia Police said it had launched an investigation into the maternity scandal to establish if there is enough evidence to bring a prosecution against the trust.

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