Shrewsbury baby deaths prompt midwife recruitment drive

By Michael Buchanan
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

  • Published
Mother holding newborn's handImage source, Science Photo Library

Nearly £100m is to be spent improving maternity safety in England.

It is understood as many as 1,000 midwives and around 80 obstetrics consultants will be hired.

NHS England made the funding commitment in response to the maternity scandal at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust.

Richard Stanton, whose daughter Kate died in 2009 after mistakes at the trust, said the money was "good news" and "a step in the right direction for everyone".

Mr Stanton said the announcement was a relief after 12 years of campaigning, alongside his wife, Rhiannon.

"It's something that should have been done sooner... and that is perhaps one criticism here that this should have never taken this long to have got to where we are today.

"If this money can be spent to improve maternity care at grassroots levels in hospitals, there are likely to be children alive in years to come because the care that they receive is as a direct result.

"That is a really humbling legacy to take away from Kate's death," said Mr Stanton.

An inquiry into maternity failings at the Shropshire trust is looking into 1,862 cases, the vast majority since the year 2000.

Image source, Richard Stanton
Image caption,
Rhiannon Davies, pictured with daughter Kate, campaigned for a review into maternity care

An initial report published last year by Donna Ockenden, the midwife leading the review, recommended that maternity units across England carry out what she termed seven "immediate and essential" actions.

These included ensuring midwives and consultants train together, listening properly to the views of women and their families, and better investigations when things go wrong, with lessons learned across the regional NHS system.

Today's funding announcement is a response to those concerns and includes money to help the NHS recruit staff from overseas.

Figures published by the Nursing and Midwifery Council found there had been an increase of 937 midwives in the UK in the six months to September 2020, bringing the total to just under 39,000.

The Royal College of Midwives has estimated that the NHS in England needs more than 2,000 midwives to provide optimal care.

'Right numbers, right training'

RCM chief executive Gill Walton called the new investment "a significant boost for our under-resourced and under-staffed maternity services.

"Now we must all work together to use this money to have an impact on direct front-line care as quickly as possible, so that we have the right numbers of staff, with the right training, in the right place."

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said Donna Ockenden's report into the baby deaths scandal had been "a wake-up call for the system".

"We look forward to working closely with the government to ensure every penny of this funding is spent in the best way it can be," said Dr Morris.