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Shropshire baby deaths scandal: 1,862 cases now under review

An investigation into an NHS trust over high infant deaths and brain damage cases has now expanded to cover 1,862 babies.

The review into maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is being led by Donna Ockenden.

News of the increase in numbers came after it was revealed earlier this month a thorough examination of records at the trust had identified more potential cases.

Today the independent maternity review team confirmed the further search of paper records and a call for families to come forward had found another 496 families.

It takes the total number of cases of death or harm being examined to 1,862.

Ms Ockenden said: ‘It’s now really important that we focus our efforts on getting all clinical reviews completed so that we can make meaningful recommendations to improve services and give families the answers they have asked for.

‘We intend to have initial, emerging recommendations for maternity services published at the end of the year. 

‘We intend to have initial, emerging recommendations for maternity services published at the end of the year.

‘In order to give ourselves the time to write the final report, any new cases that come to light from now on will need to go directly to the trust for them to consider, rather than them coming to the maternity review team.

‘I have made a commitment to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care that we will undertake our work with the care and the independence it deserves and we will publish the final report as quickly as we can.

‘I want to assure families that their experiences are important to us and that our independent team of midwives and doctors continue to ensure that family voices remain central to everything we do.’

Letters will be sent to the recently identified families asking if they want their case to be reviewed.

The independent maternity review team said the inquiry is moving into the next phase.

It is focusing on the completion of clinical reviews to enable the final report to be published, and the team has said any further cases should go to the trust. 

The inquiry was commissioned by then health secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017.

It came following concerns raised by the parents of Kate Stanton-Davies and Pippa Griffiths, who died shortly after birth in 2009 and 2016 respectively.

At first it was only going to review 23 cases, but it was widened after cases were identified by the trust’s own investigation. 

West Mercia Police announced last month that they had launched an investigation into the care of mothers and babies who died or suffered serious harm in the maternity unit. 

‘A police investigation will be conducted to explore whether there is evidence to support a criminal case either against the trust or any individuals,’ said Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell of West Mercia Police.

‘The investigation is now live so we are unable to comment any further at this time.’

Ms Ockenden said the police probe will not impact the progress of the review.

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell said they had been instructed by a number of families to investigate the maternity care they received the trust.

Tim Annett said: ‘Our clients are incredibly concerned by today’s announcement that the Ockenden review has deemed it appropriate to expand the number of cases it’s investigating to nearly 1,900. While we welcome the serious nature in which the review is being conducted, understandably, our clients have further questions they need answering.

‘These concerns have been heightened by NHS Improvement’s separate report which found the Hospital Trust delayed publication of an investigation by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists amid fears of the public reaction to the findings.

‘Sadly when things go wrong it’s vital that full and transparent investigations are conducted to uphold public confidence in the healthcare system.

‘We call on the Hospital Trust to ensure it honours its own promise to work with the Ockenden Review to ensure that lessons are learned.

‘It’s vital that families receive the care and support they may need to get through this difficult time.’

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