Disruption as hospital in baby death probe holds meeting

By Michael Buchanan
Social affairs correspondent, BBC News

Image source, Getty Images

An NHS trust being investigated over maternity errors, including baby deaths, has been forced to adjourn its board meeting amid calls to answer questions about alleged failings.

The chairman and chief executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust both told the meeting they could not comment in detail about the review.

Following shouts of "shame", "sham" and "resign", a 40-minute break was called.

The chairman later said the decision to suspend was difficult but correct.

The monthly board meeting was the first opportunity for members of the public to question the trust since the BBC revealed earlier this month that the health secretary has ordered an investigation into a number of deaths and other maternity errors.

There have been at least seven avoidable deaths of babies due to mistakes in labour over a 20-month period.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered NHS Improvement to investigate the way the trust has investigated the deaths and learned lessons.

'Risk of prejudice'

The meeting was scheduled to take questions at the end from the public, and chairman Peter Latchford refused several requests to bring forward questions about maternity services.

After chief executive Simon Wright, read out a prepared statement saying the trust could not comment on the review, in case it prejudiced the investigation, there was an outcry.

Other members of the public urged the non-executive directors to "raise your voices up and provide accountability".

Mr Latchford then said that in his opinion the meeting could not proceed and adjourned the proceedings.

After the board walked out, a group of about 15 people held an impromptu meeting, where they called for resignation of the chief executive and the medical director, Dr Edwin Borman.

They repeatedly referred to comments Mr Borman made to the BBC - that the trust's perinatal mortality rate was in line with the national average - as "disgraceful".

After the 40-minute suspension, the board members returned and the meeting continued.

In a statement in the evening, Mr Latchford said: "The decision to briefly adjourn the meeting following a period of disruption was a difficult one to make but one I believe to be the correct decision, allowing us time to gather our thoughts before reconvening to discuss, and make very important decisions, about the safety of our hospital services.

"We are aware that people have lots of questions about the independent review that NHS Improvement is leading, but if we comment now, we risk prejudicing the review and we are committed to using it as a chance to make further improvements."

The chief executive had told the meeting the trust has written to around 3,000 women who are due to give birth at the trust to reassure them about the safety of their maternity services.

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