Families at the heart of the Shropshire maternity scandal have slammed a ‘support plan’ for the troubled hospital Trust - accusing NHS bosses of “elitism” and urging them to "rip out the toxic old wood".
Rhiannon Davies, who has been at the forefront of the fight for answers since losing her newborn daughter Kate just hours after she was born in 2009, said she “continues to be more and more appalled”.
“Does no one actually care that patients are being harmed and dying - avoidably?” She added.
The plan was revealed in a letter from Amanda Pritchard, the chief operating officer of NHS England and Improvement, to the healthcare watchdog in response to scathing criticisms of Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH), warning that poor care was becoming “normalised”.
In it, Ms Pritchard states that “the challenges facing SATH are complex and substantial”, and says: “In order to achieve the improvements that we expect at pace, SATH needs the strong support of the surrounding system and also needs a further and strengthened package of support including more senior on-site support, additional measures”.
Key points on the plan include developing an “improvement team”, to be led by an on-site “senior improvement director”, as well as drafting in retired former directors of nursing to assist the interim director while a permanent replacement is found.
A new human resources lead to review policies and build staff confidence
A maternity improvement programme
Dedicated support to the trust’s medical director to “strengthen clinical engagement and the embedding of professional accountability”
“While continuing to review the impact closely, as agreed last week, we will need to allow additional measures time to embed if the trust is to deliver tangible benefits to patients, but we will reflect on whether further measure are required in the short term following our Board to system meeting,” Ms Pritchard adds.
She states in the letter that she will be working with the chair of NHS Improvement, Baroness Dido Harding, holding a “board to system” meeting with other healthcare chiefs in Shropshire.
It comes after the ongoing independent maternity review revealed it was dealing with a total of 1,862 cases - an extraordinary increase on the 23 it initially started out with.
And on the same day, NHS Improvement released the findings of an investigation into allegations of a “cover up” - finding that senior members of the Trust board, including previous chief executive Simon Wright and current chairman of the board Ben Reid, deliberately delayed and “softened” criticisms contained within a 2017 review - putting reputation management ahead of transparency and making the necessary improvements to care.
Families have called for Mr Reid to resign - and Rhiannon echoed that call again today, urging bosses to “rip out the toxic old wood” and “build the trust back up from the ground”.
Rhiannon said she was furious at Baroness Harding’s involvement in the wake of the test and trace disaster - and what she saw as further proof that senior NHS officials were still failing to put patients first.
“It stinks of elitism and toxic networks of people who prefer to cover up and line their pockets, advance their status and who clearly don’t even know the definition of transparency,” she said.
“I continue to be more and more appalled.
“Does no one actually care that patients are being harmed and dying - avoidably?
Parachuting people into patch holes is not going to work.
You need to rip out the toxic old wood and build the trust back up from the ground with those who care first and foremost about one thing - patient safety.”
Mr Reid released a statement on Tuesday in which he said he had learned lessons which he hoped to take forward.
But he has not provided a response to the families’ calls to resign - and SaTH’s new chief executive, Louise Barnett, has refused to confirm whether she backs him continuing in his post.
Similarly, the Department of Health and Social Care has declined to reveal whether Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is directly responsible for holding the chair of the board accountable, continues to support Mr Reid or whether he will consider further action.