Safety concerns raised over maternity units at two South Wales hospitals

 Maternity units at two hospitals in South Wales have been told they must take urgent action to address “immediate quality and safety concerns” identified by inspectors as part of an independent review into maternity services provided by the Cwm Taf University Health Board.

The review into the maternity units at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant follows concerns that incidents of potential harm at these maternity units were under-reported over a nearly two-year period from January 1, 2016 to September 2018 which saw 10,000 births across the region. 

The issue was first brought to light when staff at the health board noticed a significant drop in the number of serious untoward incidents (SUI) being reported by the maternity units. An internal review found that, while just 13 SUIs had been reported during the time period in question, 43 cases with "adverse outcomes" had occurred, including 20 stillbirths and six babies who died shortly after birth.

In light of these revelations, an independent review was ordered by Welsh Government Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething AM and jointly carried out by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives.

The review, carried out over 3 days from 15-17 January, saw the reviewers speaking with families who had used the maternity units at the two hospitals, as well as with maternity staff from the hospitals. The review team were asked to identify specific actions needed to ensure maternity care at the hospitals would be high quality and safe going forwards and to bring systems of governance and assurance in line with national standards and best practice.

Initial findings from the independent review were reported to the health board and the Welsh Government on Thursday 17 January 2019, with a full report due to be published in spring 2019. 

Mr Gething released a statement following the report to the Welsh government, saying:

“Initial feedback from the review team identified a number of immediate quality and safety concerns. As a matter of urgency, we have agreed a number of actions with the Royal Colleges and Cwm Taf to make immediate improvements to ensure the safety of maternity services. The health board took action before the weekend on some of the issues and we expect them to put other actions in place as a matter of urgency.”

Staff levels were highlighted as a key concern, with the health board having previously admitted it had been "very challenged" to maintain staff numbers and having committed to recruiting an additional 15 midwives.

In his statement, Mr Gething explained:

“A key focus of the work to date has been on ensuring appropriate midwifery and obstetric staffing levels, strong clinical leadership and improved governance arrangements. Welsh Government officials have been provided with assurance from the health board that current staffing levels are safe for both midwifery and obstetric cover.  The health board is also actively recruiting into vacant posts for both midwives and obstetricians.” 

Mr Gething added:

“Women using maternity services rightly expect to receive good quality, safe care. Childbirth can be stressful, but also an experience that brings great joy. The welfare of mothers and their babies must be our main and immediate concern. I have been given assurance that clear, immediate actions are in place to ensure that women receiving maternity services in Cwm Taf can expect safe and compassionate care.”

Separately, it has been announced Cwm Taf University Health Board that maternity services in Royal Glamorgan Hospital will now be midwife-led with women experiencing a complicated pregnancy, needing doctor-led care or specialist neonatal care being treated at Prince Charles Hospital.

What to do if you believe your child was harmed due to maternity care failings 

Prof Angela Hopkins, interim director of nursing for Cwm Taf, has said:

"We want to offer families our commitment to providing a safe service going forward."

Prof Hopkins explained that in cases where issues have been identified: “we will be in touch with the families and supporting the family with an apology and the redress system." 

Cwm Taf University Health Board has said anyone with concerns about their services should call 08000 328999 between 8am and 6pm seven days a week or email CTHB_concerns@wales.nhs.uk.

For anyone with concerns about the maternity care you have received, we would also urge you to contact our team as we are already representing a number of clients affected by medical negligence at the Prince Charles and Royal Glamorgan hospitals.  

While the reviews carried out so far have focused on still births and the deaths of new born babies, we believe the issues are much more widespread, resulting in a number of birth injuries that have left children and their mothers with lifelong injuries.

For this reason, we have called for a wider investigation into maternity services provided by the Cwm Taf University Health Board covering a longer period, with the earliest case we are dealing with dating back to 2008.

Speaking to ITV News, Diane Rostron said: "I see recurring themes and the inquiry must look at those themes. I see failure to monitor babies during delivery, failure to quickly deliver these babies, resulting in death or either very serious injury. I see inadequacies of inquiry when something has gone wrong. The internal inquiries that I have seen for both hospitals have either been inadequate or haven't taken place at all."

Diane added: “When you go into hospital and expect to come home with a beautiful perfect little baby and something goes dreadfully wrong and either your child dies or is catastrophically injured, I'm afraid the effects of that go on and on.

These families, particularly with children who are severely disabled, struggle to access what those children need in terms of equipment and therapies - it really is catastrophic for the whole family.”

In such cases, claiming compensation is often essential to ensure your child has all the help and support they need to enable them to live a full, happy life.

You can speak to our friendly, expert birth injury claims team in complete confidence by calling 01253 766 559 or emailing dr@addies.co.uk.