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Reflections on the initial findings of the Ockenden Review

PUBLISHED

Patient Safety Learning Press Release

10th December 2020

Today the Independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust published its first report on its findings.[1] The report made recommendations for actions to be implemented by the Trust and “immediate and essential actions” for both the Trust and the wider NHS.

The Review was formally commissioned in 2017 to assess “the quality of investigations relating to new-born, infant and maternal harm at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust”.[2] Initially it was focused on 23 cases but has been significantly expanded as families have subsequently contacted the review team with their concerns about maternity care and treatment at the Trust. The total number of families to be included in the final report is 1,862. These initial findings are drawn from 250 cases reviewed to date.

This is another shocking report into avoidable harm.

We welcome the publication of these interim findings and the sharing of early actions that have been identified to make improvements to patient safety in NHS maternity services. We commend the ambition for immediate responses and action.

Reflecting on the report, there are a number of broad patient safety themes, many of which have been made time and time again in other reports and inquiries.

A failure to listen to patients

The report outlines serious concerns about how the Trust engaged and involved women both in their care and after harm had occurred. This was particularly notable in the example of the option of having a caesarean section, where there was an impression that the Trust had a culture of wanting to keep the numbers of these low, regardless of patients’ wishes. They commented:

“The Review Team observed that women who accessed the Trust’s maternity service appeared to have little or no freedom to express a preference for caesarean section or exercise any choice on their mode of deliver.”

It also noted a theme in common with both Paterson Inquiry and Cumberlege Review relating to the Trusts’ poor response to patients raising concerns.[3] The report noted that “there have also been cases where women and their families raised concerns about their care and were dismissed or not listened to at all”.

The need for better investigations

Concerns about the quality of investigations into patient safety incidents at the Trust is another theme that emerges. The review reflected that in some cases no investigation happened at all, while in others these did take place but “no learning appears to have been identified and the cases were subsequently closed with it deemed that no further action was required”.

One of the most valuable sources for learning is the investigation of serious incidents and near misses. If these processes are absent or inadequate, then organisations will be unable to learn lessons and prevent future harm reoccurring. Patient Safety Learning believes it is vital that Trusts have the commitment, resources, and frameworks in place to support investigations and that the investigators themselves have the right skills and training so that these are done well and to a consistently high standard. This has not formed part of the Report’s recommendations and we hope that this is included in their final report.

Lack of leadership for patient safety

Another key issue highlighted by the report is the failure at a leadership level to identify and tackle the patient safety issues. Related to this one issue it notes is high levels of turnover in the roles of Chief Executive, executive directors and non-executive directors. As part of its wider recommendations, the Report suggests trust boards should identify a non-executive director who has oversight of maternity services.

Good leadership plays a key role in shaping an organisations culture. Patient Safety Leadership believes that leaders need to drive patient safety performance, support learning from unsafe care and put in place clear governance processes to enable this. Leaders need to be accountable for patient safety.

There are questions we hope will be answered in the final report that relate to whether leaders knew about patients’ safety concerns and the avoidable harm to women and their babies. If they did not know, why not? If they did know but did not act, why not?

Informed Consent and shared decision-making

The NHS defines informed consent as “the person must be given all of the information about what the treatment involves, including the benefits and risks, whether there are reasonable alternative treatments, and what will happen if treatment does not go ahead”.[4] The report highlights concerns around the absence of this, particularly on the issue of where women choose as a place of birth, noting:

“In many cases reviewed there appears to have been little or no discussion and limited evidence of joint decision making and informed consent concerning place of birth. There is evidence from interviews with women and their families, that it was not explained to them in case of a complication during childbirth, what the anticipated transfer time to the obstetric-led unit might be.”

Again this is another area of common ground with other recent patient safety reports such as the Cumberlege Review.[5] Patient Safety Learning believes it is important that patients are not simply treated as passive participants in the process of their care. Informed consent and shared decision making are vital to respecting the rights of patients, maintaining trust in the patient-clinician relationship, and ensuring safe care.

Implementation for action and improved patient safety

In its introduction, the report states:

“Having listened to families we state that there must be an end to investigations, reviews and reports that do not lead to lasting meaningful change. This is our call to action.”

Responding with an official statement in the House of Commons today, Nadine Dorries MP, Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety, did not outline a timetable for the implementation of this report’s recommendations.

In 2020 we have seen significant patient safety reports whose findings have been welcomed by the Department of Health and Social Care but where there has subsequently been no formal response nor clear timetable for the implementation of recommendations, most notably the Paterson Inquiry and Cumberlege Review.

Patient Safety Learning believes there is an urgent need to set out a plan for implementing the recommendations of the Ockenden Report and these other patient safety reports. Patients must be listened to and action taken to ensure patient safety.

[1] Independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Ockenden Report: Emerging findings and recommendations form the independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, 10 December 2020. https://www.ockendenmaternityreview.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/ockenden-report.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Right Reverend Graham Jones, Report of the Independent Inquiry into the Issues raised by Paterson, 2020. https://assets.publishing.serv...; The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, First Do No Harm, 8 July 2020. https://www.immdsreview.org.uk/downloads/IMMDSReview_Web.pdf

[4] NHS England, Consent to treatment, Last Accessed 16 July 2020. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/consent-to-treatment/

[5] Patient Safety Learning, Findings of the Cumberlege Review: informed consent, Patient Safety Learning’s the hub, 24 July 2020. https://www.pslhub.org/learn/patient-engagement/consent-and-privacy/consent-issues/findings-of-the-cumberlege-review-informed-consent-july-2020-r2683/

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