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Review panel into Shropshire baby death inquiry disbanded by NHSI

A review panel set up by NHS Improvement (NHSI) to review the findings of an investigation into maternity care in hundreds of baby deaths at an NHS trust has been disbanded after allegations of conflicted interests.

The review panel was set up at the end of last year to look into the findings of the original investigation into the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH), which stretched to over 200 cases of maternity failings.

The former health secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered the review two years ago after concerns were raised by one of the mothers involved in the inquiry, Rhiannon Davies, whose daughter Kate died in 2009 as a result of avoidable errors at SaTH.

She said she feared a “cover up” over the composition of the panel, and several families involved had threatened to pull out of the inquiry due to a conflict of interest in the panel – threatening the independence of the review.

The panel involved staff from the CQC and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), who both have history reviewing the trust.

The panel rejected the claims of the conflict of interest or cover-up, but NHSI has disbanded the panel following the claims.

Davies said: “The point is this is the biggest maternity review ever done.

“It has potential to make positive lasting change across the whole NHS because the things being identified are not exclusive to SaTH, and yet because, maybe they are frightened of the findings, these people are coming in and our concern is they are going to try and close it down.”

She added: “NHSI have chosen to invite some highly inappropriate individuals.

“I will be taking some time to consider whether I will allow Kate’s case to be part of the review.”

Dr Kathy McLean, NHSI chief operating officer, said: “We are committed to ensuring Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust is able to learn as much as it can from the independent review into its handling of concerns about maternity and neonatal care.

“In response to feedback from families, NHSI has decided to stand down the independent review panel.

“Although the intention had always been for the panel to provide additional scrutiny and support to the wide-ranging review being undertaken by Donna Ockenden, it is clear that its role has prompted concerns, which we hope are now resolved.

“The review remains completely independent and NHSI will ensure that families are given the answers they need and that lessons are learnt.”

The SaTH has come under heavy criticism from regulators in recent years and was placed in special measures last year as well as having to submit weekly reports to the CQC as part of an urgent action plan.


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