'It’s created a legacy for our daughters': The two mothers who exposed a maternity scandal

Kayleigh Griffiths and Rhiannon Davies both lost their daughters shortly after birth.

Words by ITV News Midlands Correspondent Ben Chapman

Next week, the Ockenden Review into the biggest NHS maternity scandal, in Shropshire, will be published, into the deaths and injuries of babies and mothers over decades.

More than 1,800 families are having their care reviewed.

But it might never have come to light, had it not been for the determination of two bereaved mothers to uncover the failures.

In 2009, Rhiannon Davies gave birth to her daughter, Kate. She lived for just six hours.

“I just thought she was the most perfect, precious little girl,” Rhiannon says. “I got to hold her for about half an hour of her life. And that was it.”

Rhiannon Davies only got to hold her baby daughter for half an hour of her life.

Midwives at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust had failed to spot that Rhiannon’s pregnancy had become high risk, continuing with a birth at a midwife-led unit, without the medical support her newborn daughter would need.

It took Rhiannon and her husband Richard seven years of fighting before the Trust finally admitted that Kate’s death was avoidable.

Around the same time, in April 2016, Kayleigh Griffiths was about to give birth to her daughter, Pippa.

After being born at home, she struggled to feed and was coughing up fluid. Kayleigh spoke to midwives four times with concerns before Pippa was finally rushed to hospital.

“They should have been there to say that our daughter was ill,” Kayleigh says. “And each time we spoke to them, we were told everything was normal.”

She died, less than two days old, from a Strep B infection.

“We sat with her while she took her last breath and we had to hold her while she died.”

Kayleigh Griffiths contacted midwives four times with concerns about her daughter.

It was when Kayleigh and her husband Colin were excluded from the hospital’s internal investigation that she became suspicious.

“It’s being swept under the carpet and it’s a cover up. That was my instinct,” she says.

She would send what became a fateful email, to Rhiannon, asking for advice.

The two mothers didn’t know each other, but Kayleigh had read about Rhiannon’s battle for answers in the local paper.

They quickly realised there were similarities in Kate and Pippa’s stories, and decided to investigate.

“For me it was like, ‘how many more has this happened to?’” Kayleigh says. “And so we just started Googling.”

From their kitchen tables, the two mothers began pouring through inquest reports and death records.

  • 'How many more has this happened to?'

“It became almost addictive,” Rhiannon says. “We’d uncover one fact and realise that connects to that case, and we were building this jigsaw and it became an all-consuming task.”

Together, they uncovered the names of 23 babies, and a pattern of mistakes being made again and again.

It convinced the then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to order a review by a senior independent midwife, Donna Ockenden.

Hundreds more families came forward.

The Review’s interim findings, in December 2020, found a culture at the Trust of blaming parents, failing to recognise when things were going wrong.

Babies continued to die because of a repeated failure to learn lessons.

It confirmed Rhiannon and Kayleigh’s suspicions, and justified their determination to get answers.

“I’ve been driven by being so enraged on behalf of Kate, and now on behalf of the other families,” Rhiannon says. “The absolute anger, I focus and channel into pushing back and getting the truth.”

  • 'The anger drove us to push back'

“For me,” Kayleigh says, “It was just so that nobody else had to come away from that hospital without their baby, and it being completely avoidable.”

A spokesperson for the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust said: “As a Trust we take full responsibility for the failings in the standards of care within our maternity services. We offer our sincere apologies for all the distress and hurt we know this caused.”

The Trust said it has made “strong progress” in improvements in the 15 months since the Ockenden Review’s interim recommendations.

For Rhiannon and Kayleigh, that is what matters most.

“This is all we can do as parents for our daughters,” Kayleigh says. “It’s created a legacy for them and it will have changed maternity services forever, hopefully.”

Their future now includes a strong friendship, that grew out of the most appalling loss.

And also a promise they won’t stop fighting for better maternity care.

Support and advice available for parents who have experienced child loss: