Families affected by Nottingham maternity failures feel 'immense relief' after review gets underway

ITV News Central Health Correspondent Nancy Cole reports on the families affected by maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals Trust

Families who have campaigned for safer maternity services at Nottingham's hospitals say they feel an "immense sense of relief" as the independent review finally gets underway.

It comes after around 100 mothers wrote to the then-health secretary, Sajid Javid, in April of their concerns about the Nottingham hospitals' review not being fit for purpose.

They asked for Donna Ockenden, the senior midwife who had led the investigation of the Shrewbury and Telford review into maternity care, to do the same in Nottingham.

Felicity Benyon, from Mansfield, was left with a permanent urostomy bag after staff at Queen's Medical Centre didn't realise they had removed her bladder during an emergency hysterectomy in 2015.

Speaking to ITV Central, she says she's relieved the review is finally getting underway.

"Donna is the only person who can do this - there isn't anyone else whose as qualified to do something of this scale.

"I believe this scale will get a lot bigger as time goes on as she will uncover many more people who've been harmed."

'Donna is the only person who can do this'

Ms Benyon adds: "To have someone like Donna just brings so much weight, so much power behind our cause that actually, there is something wrong here and it does need looking at, it does need scrutinising and it does need changing."

She had been in hospital for almost five months prior to the birth, suspected to have a potentially fatal pregnancy complication called placenta percreta, where the placenta attaches itself and grows through the uterus. 

As a result of a five-year legal investigation, the 35-year-old believes the hospital did not have the right team of specialists on hand during her surgery.

In 2020, Nottingham Hospitals NHS Trust accepted liability for what she described was a "life-altering experience" during the birth of her second child.

Felicity Benyon's bladder was accidentally removed during an emergency hysterectomy in 2015.

The Ockenden Report highlighted major failings in maternity care in Shropshire and it's findings into what happened at Shrewsbury and Telford is considered the worst maternity scandal in the history of the NHS.

However, it later emerged that NHS Manager, Julie Dent was instead chosen to lead the existing review.

After mounting pressure from families, she stood down in early May, just two weeks into her appointment, citing "personal reasons" according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

Ms Ockenden was then appointed chair of a new independent review at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust on May 26, 2022.

The families say this is at last a huge step in the right direction, following years of campaigning for answers.

Who is Donna Ockenden?

Donna Ockenden Credit: PA Images

Donna Ockenden is a senior midwife with more than 30 years experience of working within a variety of health settings both in the UK and internationally.

Ms Ockenden's career spans a number of sectors including acute providers, commissioning, hospital, community and education.

She was the Chair of the England Royal College of Midwives (RCM) between 2006 and  2014.

What is the Shropshire Ockenden report?

The Okenden review led by Donna Ockenden was launched by then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in 2017 on the basis of 23 deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

Since then, it had ballooned to look at evidence from 1,486 families, making it one of the biggest health scandals in NHS history.

The inquiry looked at cases of death or harm between 1998 and 2017. This includes stillbirths, neonatal baby deaths, the deaths of mothers, babies born with disabilities due to alleged poor care, and alleged failures which led to serious ongoing injuries to mothers.

The first official report from the Ockenden review was published looking at the first 250 of those cases. It found babies’ skulls were fractured and medical staff at the trust blamed grieving mothers for the deaths of their children.

The report found in 498 cases of stillbirth that were reviewed and graded - one in four cases were found to have significant or major concerns in maternity care, which if managed appropriately, might or would have, resulted in a different outcome.