Wales

Cwm Taf maternity review: Mum 'scared' to use hospital

Sarah Handy
Image caption Sarah Handy was discharged from hospital with painkillers then baby daughter Jennifer died after she was born suddenly at home

A mother whose baby died after failures at a hospital at the centre of a damning report has said she still has no faith in its maternity services.

Sarah Handy was sent home with painkillers and laxatives before giving birth to Jennifer, who died a short time later.

A highly-critical report said maternity services at Royal Glamorgan and Prince Charles hospitals were "dysfunctional".

Cwm Taf health board said it understood people's anxieties.

The independent review found services for expectant and new mothers were "under extreme pressure" with patients' worries often ignored.

'Questions to answer'

It was prompted by concerns over the deaths of a number of babies.

After the report uncovered numerous failings, Health Minister Vaughan Gething put Cwm Taf maternity services into special measures.

Mrs Handy said: "I've lost all confidence and trust in the service. I would be very, very scared to use the services again. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered."

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Media caption'We picked the wrong day to be ill'

Ms Handy's case was one of those highlighted in the accompanying report, which carried concerns expressed by women and families over the quality of care they received.

The review team said her case included at least five failings in how the maternity service responded and dealt with her in April 2017.

Ms Handy, from Merthyr Tydfil, wants to see more staff and more safeguards in place: "Doctors, midwives, across the board really, listening to patients and patients feeling much more valued."

Image caption Samantha Gadsden said, despite improvements, there were still staffing issues

Meanwhile, doula Samantha Gadsden - a birth companion to pregnant women - said she saw some "pretty horrible things" while working in Cwm Taf.

"Coerced vaginal examinations, lack of informed consent, free-birthing women - choosing to give birth without a midwife - being reported to social services and I witnessed a midwife lose her temper and walk out of a house with a baby without telling the parents," said Ms Gadsen.

"One of my clients was criticised for her choice to free birth while her baby was there fitting in the hospital and she was there still being told off by the consultant."

Ms Gadsden told BBC Wales she was "shocked" the problems have only just come to light, but insists there have been improvements.

"There was a time when I would literally put my head in my hands knowing I was going to be working in that health board but that is no longer the case.

"There are new consultant midwives, there's the new birth centre there, so things are changing."

Unison Cymru's head of health Paul Summers said there was a problem with staffing levels and a blame culture meant staff had been too scared to speak out - and those that did, did not feel they were listened to.

"There's a big job to do in rebuilding the trust and confidence of staff," he added.

Dr Clea Harmer, chief executive at Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, said: "It is incredibly sad that for so many parents the first time they truly feel their voice has been heard, since suffering the devastation of the death of their baby, is a report into failings at a maternity unit that may have led to that bereavement."

She highlighted the testimony of one mother, who recalled a woman coming in and saying "'Just to let you know the baby's died.' She didn't break it gently. Then she just walked away."

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Media captionJessica Western says she is still fighting to find out why her daughter Macie died

Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board had already been planning changes and since March, specialist neonatal care is now only provided on one site - Prince Charles Hospital. The Royal Glamorgan still has a midwife-led unit for less complicated births.

Chief executive Allison Williams said: "We completely understand the anxiety people may be feeling and we would encourage people to talk to their community midwife to ensure that they have their questions answered."

She offered a public apology saying she was "deeply sorry for the failings" identified.

She said the health board fully accepted the findings and putting things right was now the organisation's utmost priority.

"Some of the feedback we have received from patients is extremely distressing," she added.

"I would also like to say sorry to our staff who have felt that their concerns have not been listened to."

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