'Climate of Fear' Prevented NHS Trust Staff From Exposing Hundreds of Baby Deaths, Report Says

CC0 / / Newborn baby
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In 2017, British independent midwife Donna Ockenden launched an investigation into 23 cases of concern at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust. However, many more families have since come forward, and her review ended up exposing a chilling number of potentially avoidable baby deaths.
Hundreds of babies died or were left brain-damaged at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust due to the policy of keeping the caesarean section rates low, and the trust staffers were too scared to expose the babн death numbers due to the existing "climate of fear," Sky News reported.
The outlet cited revelations by whistleblower Bernie Bentick, who was a consultant obstetrician at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust for around 30 years. He was working at the time period that is currently being investigated as part of "the worst maternity scandal in the history of NHS."
"In Shrewsbury and Telford there was a climate of fear where staff felt unable to speak up because of risk of victimisation," Bentick told Sky News. "Clearly, when a baby or a mother dies, it's extremely traumatic for everybody concerned. Sadly, the mechanisms for trying to prevent recurrence weren't sufficient for a number of factors. Resources and the institutionalised bullying and blame culture was a large part of that."
An inquiry into the scandal was started after independent midwife Donna Ockenden was asked to look into 23 cases of concern at Shrewsbury and Telford hospitals back in 2017. However, other families reached out to Ockenden later, telling more and more dramatic stories.
As a result, over 1,800 cases of potentially avoidable harm have been reviewed, with most of the incidents occurring between 2000 and 2019.
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Bentick, who worked at the Trust until 2020, said he tried to raise concerns with the managers starting from 2009. According to him, the hospital management prioritised activity over safety.
"I believe that the senior management were mostly concerned with activity rather than safety - and until safety is on a par with clinical activity, I don’t see how the situation is going to be resolved," he said.
A full report on Ockenden's findings is to be published on Wednesday, 30 March. According to the earlier reports related to the scandal, the avoidable harm to the babies was caused mainly due to the hospital's attempt to keep the numbers of C-sections low and due to the failure of doctors to detect early signs of dangerous conditions in newborns.
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