An official investigation has been ordered into claims of a ‘cover-up’ by Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust, ITV Central has learned, after the chairman of the Trust board admitted to "softening" a critical report into maternity services.

Ben Reid, who heads up the hospital trust board, told a public meeting in November that the trust had delayed publishing the July 2017 report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The Trust then sent a delegation of staff to London to persuade the authors to write a more positive addendum regarding the improvements they claimed had been made, before finally publishing them both together a year later.

He told the meeting there had been attempts to "soften" the report's conclusions, describing it as a "sorry story".

Chairman of the board, Ben Reid, admitted to 'softening' the critical report during November's public board meeting. Credit: Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust

This infuriated families, who filed a formal complaint accusing the Trust of “a deliberate and pre-meditated plan to cover-up and water down the significant concerns contained in the … report.”

And a letter seen by ITV Central correspondent Charlotte Cross reveals that Prof Stephen Powis, from NHS England and NHS Improvement, has now ordered an investigation.

“I have reflected on the serious concerns you have raised and have asked the investigations team, based at NHS Improvement, to look into this matter.”

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England & NHS Improvement

It comes as the government’s health minister confirmed a formal review into maternity care at the Trust is now dealing with more than 900 cases.

Richard Stanton, whose newborn daughter Kate Stanton-Davies died in 2009 just hours after being born at the Trust, has been at the forefront of the campaign for justice.

Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton lost their newborn daughter Kate in 2009, just hours after she was born at the trust.

“There’s a toxic culture at the very heart of this trust which doesn’t want the truth to come out and that’s why they’ve covered it up and battled for this for so long,” he said.

“This didn’t happen by accident, these are not accidental deaths, these are avoidable deaths and cases of harm. People have covered this up in places of authority when they should have been protecting the public.”

He said he now wants to see Mr Reid step down from his position.

“He’s not fit for purpose to be running that Trust at chairman level,” he said.

“There needs to be someone else come in. In fact, he should actually just resign, and show that his actions were so poor, so ill-judged that that would be the right thing to do.”

The Trust is now working with NHS Improvement on the investigation ordered by Prof Powis, though declined to comment.

It comes after a debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday called by Telford MP Lucy Allan, during which health minister Nadine Dorries confirmed the number of cases being examined by Donna Ockenden and her team as part of the ongoing review now stood at more than 900.

And in a statement, Ms Ockenden urged anybody else with concerns, who has not yet spoken out, to contact the review team.

I am really grateful to the brave families who have contacted my review team since my public appeal in November, bringing the total number of families to more than 900.

Donna Ockenden

The final report was due to be published at the end of this year - and while officials say they still hope that can be done, that timescale was set before hundreds more cases flooded in.