Swansea maternity review chair resigns saying appointment became a 'regrettable distraction'

ITV Cymru Wales
Maternity services at Swansea Bay University Health Board were placed under increased monitoring last year Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The woman conducting a review into maternity and neonatal services at a Welsh health board has stood down with immediate effect.

Margaret Bowron KC had been appointed by Swansea Bay University Health Board (SBUHB) to oversee the independent review.

Writing to the health board, she said it is her belief that her presence had become an unwelcome distraction from the work of the review.

Criticism had been levelled at the chair by some of the families who campaigned for the review.

In her resignation letter, Ms Bowron said: "I accepted the role of Chair with a genuine desire to play my role in the Review, which would operate entirely independently of the Health Board, focussed on seeking to restore patient confidence in local services at a time when this has sadly been eroded.

"That loss of confidence is also having a detrimental impact on staff when, in keeping with the rest of the UK, the service is under immense and sustained pressure.

"Very sadly, over the weeks that have followed, I have come to realise that my appointment has become a considerable and regrettable distraction to the very aim, which motivated me in accepting the role of Chair, being achieved.

"I have very reluctantly concluded that the reins need to be taken up as soon as practicable by another person who can take forward the role without such distractions."

In December, Eluned Morgan announced the Welsh Government would conduct enhanced monitoring of maternity services over concerns for the care given to mothers and babies at Singleton Hospital in Swansea.

Speaking to ITV Wales in December, the family of Gethin Channon, who was born with severe brain damage after complications during his birth in 2019, welcomed the health minister's announcement of enhanced monitoring of the maternity service but said it should have come sooner.

Robert and Sian Channon's son Gethin, 5, was born with significant brain damage after complications during his birth at Singleton Hospital. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

SBUHB’s review into Gethin's birth was then heavily criticised by one of the UK’s top medical investigators Dr Bill Kirkup with accusations the health board covered up the expert's report, which the service denied.

Welsh Government want review into birth of disabled boy after 'cover up' claims

Robert Channon, Gethin's father, had been calling for an independent review into the maternity unit in Swansea along with opposition politicians in Cardiff Bay

“We are pleased that the Welsh Government has finally acknowledged that SBUHB maternity service requires greater review,” he told ITV Wales last year.

“However, this is a small step, and too late for all of the families affected in the last 10 years by the poor leadership, clinical care and cover-ups taking place at the health board."

Gethin Channon has severe brain damage and requires specialist care.

Ms Bowron has been replaced on an interim basis by Dr Denise Chaffer, a midwife and existing member of the panel overseeing the review.

Commenting, Jan Williams, Chair of Swansea Bay University Health Board said: “We would like to place on record our thanks to Mrs Bowron for the work she did in establishing the Oversight Panel and finalising the Terms of Reference following a listening period involving input from service users and staff.

“The Review itself, undertaken by an entirely separate review team, is already underway and its work will gather pace over the coming weeks.

“In the meantime, the Oversight Panel will be chaired on an interim basis by existing member Dr Denise Chaffer, an experienced leader in maternity and patient safety.

“Dr Chaffer has no previous involvement with our Health Board before being independently appointed to the Oversight Panel. I would like to thank Dr Chaffer for agreeing to take up the role on an interim basis.”

Responding, Dr Chaffer said: “This review was set up to address the concerns raised about maternity and neonatal services. Taking on the role of Chair today, gives the opportunity to take this important Review further forward. Hearing the voice of parents and wider stakeholders will be central to my approach, to ensure we can deliver meaningful change together.

"Next steps will be meeting with a range of maternity and neonatal service users to hear and discuss their views about this Review going forward."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To know...