Police widen Shrewsbury maternity investigation to probe baby deaths

Police investigation into Shrewsbury maternity scandal is widened with extra officers drafted in to probe dozens of baby deaths over 18-year period

  • West Mercia Police is seeking three support officers to join Operation Lincoln
  • Probe looking into maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals
  • Investigation has received £4million boost from Home Office funding
  • The final report will publish findings on 1,862 suspect incidents since 2003
  • Interim NHS review warned that units favoured natural births over caesareans

A POLICE investigation into the country’s worst maternity scandal is being widened, with extra officers drafted in to examine baby deaths.

West Mercia Police is probing maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals in Shropshire, where dozens of newborns are feared to have died needlessly.

An interim NHS inquiry in December warned that blatant failures had been ignored for decades, and that in some appalling cases staff were obsessed with blaming mothers instead.

The Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (pictured) is one of the sites run by Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust and under scrutiny by Operation Lincoln, which is probing maternity care

The final report, which will publish findings on 1,862 suspect cases, will be the largest review into a single service in the NHS’s history.

When the Daily Mail exposed the unfolding scandal in August 2018, hospital bosses denounced coverage as ‘scaremongering’, ‘irresponsible’ and ‘factually untrue’.

West Mercia Police launched Operation Lincoln last June to examine whether there was a criminal case to answer in any of the deaths or incidents of poor care.

The probe covers cases which occurred between October 1, 2003, and the present day.

The force is liaising closely with the NHS inquiry and they have since confirmed they are hiring additional staff and have a much bigger budget.

An advert reveals the force is looking for three full-time investigative support officers to work on Operation Lincoln, having secured £4million from the Home Office and £650,000 from the Police and Crime Commissioners’ office.

The investigation is looking into maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals in Shropshire, where dozens of newborns are feared to have died needlessly (stock image)

The six-month roles will largely involve ‘data input onto the Home Office Large Major Enquiry System and full training and support will be provided’, reports The Shropshire Star.

The force has also set up a dedicated website for the investigation, which urges families who believe they have been affected by the scandal to get in touch.

The NHS review – which is being led by independent midwife Donna Ockenden – was initially commissioned in 2017 to examine just 23 suspicious cases, under former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

But dozens of other families came forward, many of whom reported similar tragic events.

Some had lost babies to infections which could have been detected and treated, others had been forced into natural labours with terrible consequences.

Operation Lincoln is probing cases between October 1, 2003 and the present day affecting Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust, including at the Royal Shrewsbury (pictured)

The interim NHS review, which examined an initial 250 of the 1,862 cases, warned the trust’s maternity units favoured natural births and were slow to switch to caesareans when labours weren’t progressing.

Monitoring of babies’ heart rates was found to be inadequate and midwives were often reluctant to inform consultants if there were problems.

The final report is likely to name individual staff and several of the most senior managers have since left, and walked into lucrative new jobs.

But the scandal would never had come to light had it not been for the detective work and campaigning of two bereaved families, Richard Stanton and his partner Rhiannon Davies, alongside Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths.

Kate Stanton-Davies died just hours after her birth at a midwifery-led unit in Ludlow in March 2009.

Pippa Griffiths died in April 2016 after midwives failed to recognise a deadly infection, Group Strep B, which could have been treated.

In response to the expansion of Operation Lincoln, a spokesperson for The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust said: ‘The Trust is fully cooperating with the police investigation and is therefore unable to make any further comments at this time.’ 

A spokesperson for West Mercia Police said ‘the investigation itself’ had not widened its scope, but confirmed ‘the team is recruiting additional investigative support officers.’

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