United by grief and determination - the families fighting for justice after maternity failings

ITV News Central correspondent Charlotte Cross met two families campaigning for change after maternity failings

Families fighting for change after their babies died due to maternity failings have revealed why they continue to campaign through their grief.

Rhiannon and Richard Davies' daughter Kate died shortly after being born at the Shrewsbury & Telford NHS Trust in 2009.

They never dreamed that 15 years on they would still be fighting.

Over the years, the couple estimate that they have written more than 1,000 letters to health bosses, care watchdogs and politicians.

Rhiannon said: "We've written to every single organisation you can conceive of, to try and get someone to listen to us and raise awareness.

"Seeing the same patterns of failings over and over again, causing the same devastating outcomes.

"There was no appetite to put the picture together, to create change, to learn, to prevent avoidable harm. If anything, it was very much the opposite - to cover up, lie, remove notes, you know, play it down.”

Rhiannon and Richard have been campaigning for change since they lost their daughter in 2009. Credit: ITV News Central

These allegations of a ‘culture of cover-up’ have now been supported by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the Chief Executive of the Ombudsman, says it is leading to avoidable deaths - and keeping the truth from grieving families. She said: "Over the past four years, we've received about 700 complaints about maternity.

"Instead of there being an open culture of proper investigation and recognition, there's often been a failure to investigate and a failure to properly recognise and apologise to the families."

Last week, the outgoing Chief Executive, Rob Behrens CBE, spoke to Good Morning Britain about what he called a "damaging", "cover-up culture" in hospitals.

He said this leads to hospitals burying evidence about poor care which results in avoidable deaths.

The NHS says it is investing £186 million per year into growing the maternity workforce and strengthening leadership - and is working with trusts to make improvements.

Three weeks ago today, the details of yet another tragic death in maternity care were revealed.

Zachary Taylor-Smith was just 14 hours old when he died at the Royal Derbyshire Hospital.

The coroner found that staff missed multiple opportunities to save his young life and that gross failures amounted to neglect.

Shortly after birth, Zachary developed breathing problems, but Hannah and Tim say they were ignored by hospital staff. Credit: Hannah and Tim Taylor-Smith

His mum Hannah said: “In the moment, when we got that conclusion, I felt a lot of relief and I felt like the anger hit me days later.

"I couldn't even count how many families we’ve spoken to whose baby died due to negligence or neglect.

"I didn't realise there were any issues in maternity services prior to this. And after reading Zach’s Serious Incident report, you just think, how is it? How is this happening? How does this happen?”

ITV News Central asked Health Secretary Victoria Atkins and the Minister for Women’s Health Maria Caulfield to answer that question, and explain what the government is doing to address the concerns of families.

They both refused - despite sending a statement insisting that ensuring all women receive safe and compassionate maternity care was a “priority”.

ITV News Central also approached the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England for comment, but they declined.

A coroner ruled on Tuesday that the death of Zachary Taylor-Smith at Royal Derby Hospital was "contributed to by neglect". Credit: ITV News Central

More than a decade apart - Kate and Zachary suffered the same fate in the care of Midlands maternity services. Now their parents are united by a common grief and determination.

Tim Taylor-Smith said: “We’ve been through every emotion you could possibly lay on the table.

"We've been through anger and fear of what's going to come next year with the inquest anything you could possibly think.

"But now I think at the end of it all now we've had the conclusion of the inquest and we've got some answers we're just determined to not let it go, I think.”

Rhiannon Davies added: “I was so naive. I was pregnant, I was going to have a baby. I was going to live happily ever after.

"And then my world came crashing down and you don't care until you care. And then it becomes your life's work to try and prevent it from happening to anyone else.

"It's hard work and it's because we care that we shout so loud and we need others to to hear us.”

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