Bereaved parents demand Government launch national inquiry into maternity failings

  • Richard Stanton, whose newborn daughter died just six hours after being born, tells ITV News Central that maternity services are "going backwards".

Parents who lost newborn babies due to failings at maternity units have written to the Government demanding a national inquiry into maternity services.

It comes as maternity services at University Hospitals Leicester NHS Trust are under scrutiny, after the health watchdog told hospital bosses 'lives were at risk' following an inspection earlier this year - the latest in a series of concerning developments for maternity care across England.

Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies lost their baby daughter, Kate, in 2009 at just six hours old.

Speaking to ITV News Central, Richard said it was a "kick in the teeth" every time they heard of more families suffering through the same trauma.

“It’s [a feeling] of anger, it’s one of huge frustration but it’s also one of tragedy and sadness - huge sadness - that there are still families who have gone into hospital hoping to come out with their joyous baby in their arms, who come out empty-handed,”

“When you hear some of the stories when people have come to us and spoken about it, it’s shattered lives.

“For every family which has lost a baby, or a mother, or had a child come to harm because of the maternity services in the UK, and that was then proven to be avoidable, it’s a kick in the teeth.

“And when they don’t get answers, when they don’t get openness and honesty and an investigation into what happened, so that that can be brought into learning to ensure that never happens again, it just angers me and Rhiannon so greatly that actually we’re a step backwards from where we were 18 months ago.”

In the wake of Kate's death, which an investigation ruled was avoidable, the couple launched a campaign for answers and action to address the problems at the unit - and went on to play a pivotal role in the campaign for an independent review into widespread maternity failings at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

This culminated in the Ockenden Review, lead by senior midwife Donna Ockenden, which concluded in March 2022, having found that catastrophic and repeated failures led to the deaths of more than 200 babies, and lifelong injuries to both babies and mothers.

A review, again lead by Donna Ockenden, is ongoing into maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust - the largest ever carried out in the UK. Other reviews at East Kent and Morecambe Bay have been similarly critical, while last year the Care Quality Commission criticised "systemic" problems in "deteriorating" maternity services across the country.

The safety of some maternity services at a Leicester NHS trust have been rated as inadequate by the health watchdog. Credit: ITV News Central

The letter, also signed by fellow campaigners Colin and Kayleigh Griffiths, criticises the 'deterioration' of maternity care. The parents wrote: "Shockingly, despite intense scrutiny from the regulators, independent investigators, the police, and national media, as well as increased funding and overarching recommendations for change, maternity services in England and Wales have not improved, and are deteriorating."

It continues, addressing Health Secretary Steve Barclay directly: "Not only are death rates increasing Mr. Barclay, but the raft of recommendations and the additional funding are not getting to the heart of issues."

Demanding a public inquiry, they added: "Robust action is required of you immediately.

"Rather than disconnected and disjointed clinical and criminal investigations into hospital trusts across the country, a public inquiry into maternity services and all those services associated with maternity and it’s regulation is the only way we can get to the root of the issues and create required change.

"We recommend Donna Ockenden leads this."

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