Families welcome police investigation into scandal-hit hospital trust

Families at the heart of the Shropshire maternity scandal have told ITV Central they hope a police investigation will provide the answers they've been waiting for - some, for years. 

However, with more than 1,200 cases under review, some dating back decades, there were questions today over why it's taken officers until now to act. One family told me that officers told them there were too many complaints against the trust to take on another. 

Heaven Talbot’s birth was not a straightforward one - after complications during pregnancy, her mother Sueann Nester gave birth prematurely.

Heaven spent the first weeks of her life in neonatal intensive care at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford; a stay which her parents say was riddled with errors in care.

In one incident, they say a nurse accidentally splashed water onto Heaven’s face, causing her to choke. 

In another, the nurse in charge began to feed Heaven through one of her tubes - without first doing the standard safety checks, which would have ensured the tube was indeed entering her stomach, and not her lungs.

"It could have been a very different story. The few mess-ups that they did do could have killed my baby, it could have been lethal,” Sueann told us.

“If she wasn't so strong as she is, we would have been burying her instead of bringing her home." 

The head of the Trust’s complaints department later sent a letter, acknowledging the outcome could have been serious - and asking whether they wanted the Trust to record it as such.

They took it one step further - and reported it to West Mercia Police.

But after a short investigation, the case was closed.

“I was very frustrated - we’d hung our hopes on this,” Heaven’s father, Daniel Talbot, said.

They asked the officer why the case had been closed, Sueann added: “She said they have enough complaints at the hospital and they didn’t want to deal with anything new.”

Heaven Talbot was born premature. Credit: Family handout

West Mercia Police told us today that Heaven’s case was investigated, and officers had determined no criminal offence had been committed by any individual.

However, they said they would be happen to speak to Sueann again as the wider investigation gets going.

And Sueann told us she definitely wanted Heaven’s experience to be included.

“It’s really frustrating that despite all these other cases which we knew about, and which the police knew about, we’re only seeing action now,” she said.

“If they’d acted sooner, it could have saved a lot of people a lot of heartache.”

The police investigation into the Trust was announced yesterday (June 30), running alongside a review being led by midwife Donna Ockenden.

The Stanton-Davies and Griffiths families have been at the forefront of the campaign for answers.

For campaigners Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies, it marks a huge step forward. They - along with Colin and Kayleigh Griffiths - have been fighting for answers for years.

They lost their newborn daughter Kate in March 2009, just hours after she was born.

“Eleven years is a long time to battle when you shouldn't have to battle to get answers to the death of your daughter,” Richard said. “And now, the full accountability of West Mercia Police will befall this trust and no stone will be left unturned to get to the truth of more than 1,200 cases to be looked at."

Rhiannon said they had “no criticism” of the police - though wished there had been an investigation sooner.

“It's taken a very long time to peel back the layers and get close to the number of deaths and to uncover all the cases and it's required an awful lot of effort,” she said. 

So I don't think the police could have gone in sooner. Obviously I wish they could have, but I don't think they could have."

Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust is subject to a formal review into its maternity services. Credit: ITV News Central

Asked why the police had not launched an investigation before now, Asst Ch Cons Geoff Wessell told ITV Central today: “We have been engaging with the independent inquiry throughout and our assessment of information provided by the Ockenden Review means it is now appropriate for us to launch an investigation to ascertain if any criminal offence has been committed.

"Our investigation will not impede the progress of the Ockenden Review or the learning and health care improvements which they may identify. “We cannot even begin to imagine what these families have been through and we will endeavour to keep those involved in our investigation informed as it progresses.”

There’s no timescale for how long the investigation will take, nor when the answers will be provided.

But with more than 1,200 people now involved in the Ockenden Review, the number of people demanding them is growing ever bigger.