The Independent review of maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust was commissioned in 2017 to assess the quality of investigations relating to newborn, infant and maternal harm at the Trust.
When it commenced this review was of 23 families’ cases, but it has subsequently grown to cover cases of maternity care relating to 1,486 families, the majority of which were patients at the Trust between the years 2000 and 2019. Some families had multiple clinical incidents therefore a total of 1,592 clinical incidents involving mothers and babies have been reviewed with the earliest case from 1973 and the latest from 2020.
The review found repeated failures in the quality of care and governance at the Trust throughout the last two decades, as well as failures from external bodies to effectively monitor the care provided. This final report identifies hundreds of cases where the Trust failed to undertake serious incident investigations, with even cases of death not being examined appropriately. The review found that where investigations did take place they did not meet the expected standards at that time and failed to identify areas for improvement in care.
The report contains 64 local actions for learning which are aimed at assisting The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust with making immediate and significant improvements to the safety and quality of their maternity services. It also contains a number of immediate and essential actions to improve care and safety in maternity services across England, expanding on the recommendations made in its initial report, which are summarised below:
Workforce planning and sustainability
- Financing a safe maternity workforce. The recommendations from the Health and Social Care Committee Report: 'The safety of maternity services in England' must be implemented.
- Training. The Health and Social Care Select Committee view that a proportion of maternity budgets must be ring-fenced for training in every maternity unit should be implemented.
- All trusts must maintain a clear escalation and mitigation policy where maternity staffing falls below the minimum staffing levels for all health professionals.
Escalation and accountability
- Staff must be able to escalate concerns if necessary There must be clear processes for ensuring that obstetric units are staffed by appropriately trained staff at all times. If not resident there must be clear guidelines for when a consultant obstetrician should attend.
Clinical governance – leadership
- Trust boards must have oversight of the quality and performance of their maternity services. In all maternity services the Director of Midwifery and Clinical Director for obstetrics must be jointly operationally responsible and accountable for the maternity governance systems.
Clinical governance – incident investigations and complaints
- Incident investigations must be meaningful for families and staff and lessons must be learned and implemented in practice in a timely manner.
Learning from maternal deaths
- Nationally all maternal post-mortem examinations must be conducted by a pathologist who is an expert in maternal physiology and pregnancy related pathologies. In the case of a maternal death a joint review panel/investigation of all services involved in the care must include representation from all applicable hospitals/clinical settings.
- Staff who work together must train together Staff should attend regular mandatory training and rotas. Job planning needs to ensure all staff can attend. Clinicians must not work on labour ward without appropriate regular CTG training and emergency skills training.
Complex antenatal care
- Local Maternity Systems, Maternal Medicine Networks and trusts must ensure that women have access to pre-conception care. Trusts must provide services for women with multiple pregnancy in line with national guidance Trusts must follow national guidance for managing women with diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy.
- The LMNS, commissioners and trusts must work collaboratively to ensure systems are in place for the management of women at high risk of preterm birth. Trusts must implement NHS Saving Babies Lives Version 2 (2019).
Labour and birth
- Women who choose birth outside a hospital setting must receive accurate advice with regards to transfer times to an obstetric unit should this be necessary. Centralised CTG monitoring systems should be mandatory in obstetric units.
- In addition to routine inpatient obstetric anaesthesia follow-up, a pathway for outpatient postnatal anaesthetic follow-up must be available in every trust to address incidences of physical and psychological harm. Documentation of patient assessments and interactions by obstetric anaesthetists must improve. The determination of core datasets that must be recorded during every obstetric anaesthetic intervention would result in record-keeping that more accurately reflects events. Staffing shortages in obstetric anaesthesia must be highlighted and updated guidance for the planning and provision of safe obstetric anaesthesia services throughout England must be developed.
- Trusts must ensure that women readmitted to a postnatal ward and all unwell postnatal women have timely consultant review. Postnatal wards must be adequately staffed at all times
- Trusts must ensure that women who have suffered pregnancy loss have appropriate bereavement care services.
- There must be clear pathways of care for provision of neonatal care. This review endorses the recommendations from the Neonatal Critical Care Review (December 2019) to expand neonatal critical care, increase neonatal cot numbers, develop the workforce and enhance the experience of families. This work must now progress at pace.
- Care and consideration of the mental health and wellbeing of mothers, their partners and the family as a whole must be integral to all aspects of maternity service provision. Maternity care providers must actively engage with the local community and those with lived experience, to deliver services that are informed by what women and their families say they need from their care.
Read Patient Safety Learning's initial response to the publication of the Ockenden Review here.