Swansea maternity review ‘a disaster’ according to angry parents

An independent review of maternity and neonatal services at Swansea Bay University Health Board has been labelled ‘a disaster’ by angry parents.

The health board announced in December a review was needed “in order to maintain the public confidence in the care being delivered.”

It followed an ITV Wales This Week investigation that found critical issues within the maternity unit at Singleton Hospital and a Healthcare Inspectorate Wales report which found the unit to be “unsafe”.

Following these reports the Welsh Government announced it was placing the service under enhanced monitoring.

However, last month the chair of the independent review stood down from her role. In her resignation letter Margaret Bowron QC said “...my appointment has become a considerable and regrettable distraction.”

Robert Channon’s son Gethin was born with severe brain damage after complications with his birth at Singleton Hospital in 2019. A review by the health board into his birth was heavily criticised by one of the UK’s top medical investigators Dr Bill Kirkup.

Robert Channon with his son.

Mr Channon says he’s angry that no progress has been made six months on from the announcement of a review into maternity services in Swansea.

“We had some real hope that we were going to get some answers, not just for us but for all the families involved…but it’s turned out to be a disaster” he told ITV Wales.

“It's been a painful disaster for families who wanted to participate in it as there's been no participation.”

Following the departure of Ms Bowron the health board have appointed midwife Dr Denise Chaffer on an interim basis.

After the announcement, Dr Chaffer said she would speak to maternity and neonatal services users to discuss their views about the review.

Despite this Mr Channon claims the review has stalled and achieved very little progress with families having no input to date.

“We have just been shut out.” he said.

“All the families are frustrated and upset...this has been a long six months and now we know absolutely nothing has happened, no cases have been reviewed and as far as we are aware there has been no reviewing of anything carried out to date.”

The health board has said maternity services are not in a "critical condition."

“After six months that's an incredible position to be in.”

“We know that the situation in the Singleton Maternity Unit is still critical today. We know there is a HIW inspection report coming up that found three more serious patient safety issues and while this is happening there is no investigation, there is no review taking place.”

In a statement, Swansea Bay University Health Board said:

“We can give firm assurances that the service is not in a critical condition."

"While we can’t comment in detail on the HIW report until it is published, our understanding is that it will recognise the significant improvements made since their last visit in September 2023.

"It will also reflect that all women spoken to during the HIW visit were positive about both their care and the staff."

"However, it will also highlight areas for attention to ensure a more consistent level of care – plans for which will be included in the final report when published. Actions to address priority areas have already been agreed."

"Over the last few months, the Independent Review’s Oversight Panel has diligently developed and refined its Terms of Reference, with direct input from families, staff and other experts in the field.

"The review itself is now underway and progress updates will be provided regularly over the coming months including how the review is engaging with families and staff.”

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