The scale of the scandal prompted the UK government to issue a public apology on Wednesday. A report released on Wednesday after a five-year investigation shows that poor practices by the hospital in Shrewsbury, a region in western England, towards pregnant women have caused the deaths of around 200 babies over 20 years. He claims that exactly 201 babies could have lived if the maternity ward had been better cared for. Nine mothers died as a result of abuse, while others had to give birth naturally when they should have been offered a cesarean section.
“I’m sorry to all the families who have been seriously suffering,” British Health Secretary Sajid Javid told MPs. The report, he conceded, “clearly shows that you were not treated properly by a ministry that was there to help you and your loved ones give birth.”
The 250-page report specifically mentions cases of newborns with skull fractures, broken bones and brain problems after being deprived of oxygen at the time of birth. A quarter of the 498 cases of stillbirth studied were also found to have “significant or major” deficiencies. In 40% of cases, no in-hospital examination was performed. The hospital “failed to investigate (the incidents), to learn (from its mistakes), to improve,” Donna Ockenden, who led the investigation, said at a Tuesday news conference.
Complaints were filed by Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies, whose daughter Kate died hours after she was born in 2009. Signs indicated that the unborn baby was not fully healthy.
Caesarean section as a last resort
According to the report, the maternity ward pushed for natural births to keep caesarean rates as low as possible and resorted to them all too infrequently. “The hospital’s policy was to avoid cesarean sections at all costs,” said an employee quoted anonymously in the report. “If we were worried, for example about a baby’s heartbeat, they kept trying (to avoid the cesarean) until the baby was very bad (…) because they said they keep the cesarean rate low wanted,” said another .
In an initial report published in 2020, Donna Ockenden reported that the hospital caesarean section rate has consistently been between 8 and 12 points below the average in England over the past twenty years, figures presented as a sign of the hospital’s success. “The hospital was convinced of the good maternity ward. They were wrong,” claimed Donna Ockenden. One in four births in the UK is by caesarean, according to NHS data. Nationwide, it took until 2017 for the midwives’ union to end its campaign to promote “natural births” without caesareans or even epidurals, and earlier this year the NHS urged hospitals to stop using caesarean rates as an indicator of their performance.