History of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust amid shocking Ockenden report

ITV News Central Correspondent Andy Bevan reports on the history of the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust

The Ockenden report maternity scandal has cast a shadow over the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust for more than a decade.

The report published its damning findings on Wednesday, warning of implications for the whole of NHS maternity care.

The review into the trust, led by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, examined 1,486 cases between 2000 to 2019 - making it the largest inquiry into a single service in the history of the NHS.

The major review found a string of "repeated failures" spanning 20 years.

It concluded that none of the mothers had received care in line with best practice at the time, and in 75% of the cases the care could have been significantly improved.

ITV News Central Correspondent Andy Bevan has been looking at the history of the two sites within the trust, why they're so important to the county of Shropshire and how they've slipped from being centres of excellence to officially rated as inadequate.

One trust, two hospitals

Between them the Royal Shrewsbury and the Princess Royal serve around 480,000 people.

It is one NHS Trust, two hospitals, which are vital to the people of Shropshire.

Almost 6,000 staff, provide care to 800 in-patient beds, and hold 5,000 clinics for outpatients every week.

The Salop Infirmary opened in 1745 with just 40 beds, but as Shrewsbury's population grew with the Industrial Revolution the hospital was re-built in 1830.

First World War

During the First World War staff treated hundreds injured in battle, and after adding Royal to its name, it often played host to the monarchy. 

Princess Mary, eldest daughter of King George V, opened a new wing at the nearby Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital in Shrewsbury in 1926.

She would later become the Princess Royal, after whom the hospital in Telford is named.

New site opens in 1977

In the mid 1970s, plans were confirmed to consolidate Shrewsbury's various medical facilities onto one site, close to another hospital, the Copthorne and the town's maternity unit.

With Shropshire's population touching 360,000, a new facility was much-needed and after several years of planning and construction, the last patients were transferred from the old Royal Salop infirmary to the new site in 1977.

The following year the Prince of Wales officially opened the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

The major review found a string of 'repeated failures' spanning 20 years


While all this was going on, a new town was appearing on the map of Shropshire, 18 miles east of Shrewsbury - and named after the civil engineer Thomas Telford.

With a predicted initial population of 100,000 the new town was promised its own hospital and in 1982 work began on what was then Telford District General Hospital.

It would eventually open as the Princess Royal some seven years later and at the time was the second smallest general hospital in the country.

Trusts merge

In 1990 both hospitals became NHS Trusts, but by 2003 Telford's Princess Royal had a bigger catchment area than the Royal Shrewsbury, so the two trusts merged in October that year.

The merged trust's maternity philosophy was that natural childbirth was preferable to Caesarian section.

And between 2010 and 2018, it had a C-section rate between 15 and 22%, far lower than the national rate of 25 to 30%. 

Praised for its policies

The trust boasted that it actively recruited like-minded maternity staff, and was praised for its policy as late as 2017 by the local Clinical Commissioning Group.

But unbeknown to individual families, more and more babies were dying, often because a life-saving C-section was left too late.

One Trust, two hospitals, now failing the people of Shropshire.

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