Health

'Hundreds more cases' in Shropshire maternity scandal

Newborn baby's hand
Image caption The initial scope of the inquiry was to examine 23 cases but this has now grown to hundreds

More than 200 new families have contacted an inquiry into mother and baby deaths at a hospital trust in Shropshire.

Investigators were already looking at more than 600 cases where newborns and mothers died or were left injured while in the care of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.

One expert says the scandal, spanning decades, may be the tip of the iceberg.

Dr Bill Kirkup says it suggests failure might be more widespread in the NHS.

Maternity failings

The surge in new cases follows the leak of an interim report last week.

The leaked report, compiled by the maternity expert Donna Ockenden for NHS Improvement, outlined a catalogue of maternity failings from 1979 to the present day that led to avoidable deaths of mothers and babies at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH).

It revealed that some children were left disabled, staff got the names of some dead babies wrong and, in one case, referred to a child as "it".

Sources say hundreds of new families have now come forward in the wake of the coverage of the leaked report.

Kay Kelly, head of clinical negligence at the law firm Lanyon Bowdler, is a solicitor acting for some of the families involved.

She says that since the leaked report was made public, her firm alone has had more than 80 new inquiries.

Image caption Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust was placed in special measures

"A lot of them aren't brand new stories.

"They're things that have happened many years ago and these people have been prompted to telephone us because of the story.

"Many of them are people who lost babies at the hospital and that worries me because I understood that the hospital had passed on the information to the Donna Ockenden inquiry."

One of those being represented by Kay Kelly is Chrissie, whose son, a twin, was left with cerebral palsy after birth.

Chrissie's case against SaTH is continuing and she didn't want to be identified.

But she told me she was furious that so many families have also had to go through the terrible events she experienced.

"Nobody learned any lessons from what happened to me.

"And to know now that there've been hundreds of cases, I'm angry.

"I am really angry. Angry at them for lying to me.

"I'm angry for all the poor families, the hundreds of families and that's thousands of people because they've got the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles.

"I just feel overwhelmed at the moment with anger, anger and just, I don't understand it."

There are concerns too that the failings seen at SaTH echo closely those at another maternity unit run by the Morecambe Bay Trust.

The man who headed the inquiry into that scandal where 11 babies and one mother died is Dr Bill Kirkup, a respected expert on maternity care.

"These are not two separate one-offs, these point to underlying systemic failure that might be widespread.

"The notion that it could never happen here is one of the most dangerous ones an NHS Trust can have.

"The truth is, there are points of learning from all of these things that everybody should be looking at and learning from."

The investigation team is not expected to report until late next year.

But with families still coming forward, its work may last much longer.

Donna Ockenden, chair of independent review, said: "I would like to thank the brave families who have come forward and shared their experiences - my team are now contacting families on a daily basis. If families would like to raise a concern I am asking them to please get in touch."

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