Shrewsbury maternity scandal: Detectives get £4 million backing by Home Office to support criminal inquiry

West Mercia Police examining poor care at the trust to establish evidence of crimes by either the trust or indivdiuals

<p>Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust</p>

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust

Detectives investigating the care of mothers and babies at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust have been given £4.6 million in new funding to support the probe.

The Home Office has agreed to provide extra funding for West Mercia Police’s investigation into poor maternity care at the trust, which was announced last year after The Independent revealed the full scale of harm at the trust, making it the largest maternity scandal in NHS history.

Police and crime commissioner for West Mercia Police John Campion announced the extra investment on Wednesday and said it would support the investigation to help deliver justice for families.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse has confirmed the Home Office will provide £4 million to the force for the investigation, known as Operation Lincoln, with an extra £650,000 from the commissioner.

In June last year detectives revealed they were launching a criminal probe into events at the trust where dozens of babies have died or been left brain-damaged after a prevailing culture of avoiding caesarean sections.

Assistant Chief Constable Geoff Wessell said last year the force was examining evidence to support a criminal case either against the NHS trust or individuals.

An inquiry into maternity at the trust, led by midwife expert Donna Ockenden, is examining 1,862 cases with an interim report in December that describing appalling care, including women being medicated and forced to endure traumatic births, leaving babies skulls fractured.

Rhiannon Davies, who has campaigned to expose the unsafe care at the trust after her daughter Kate died from avoidable poor care in 2009, said: “The weight of carrying the belief that Kate’s painful, avoidable death was not the only avoidable outcome of the trust’s toxic and dysfunctional culture has been immense – but despite brutal push back and personal abuse, I’ve never wavered in my belief that a deep-seated investigation is necessary to uncover the depths of appalling treatment in the maternity services at this failing hospital trust. Unless you learn from the harm you have caused, your mistakes will be repeated.”

She said regulators and national bodies had failed families repeatedly, adding: “We are hugely grateful for this much needed financial commitment. We are equally thankful to the police for their forensic focus on what has gone on.

“Anyone claiming this as some sort of personal or political victory needs to step way back. There are hundreds and hundreds of devastated, yet incredible, families affected by the trust’s broken culture – they deserve respect and space.

“Every family has a story but not every family has been given a voice. With the Ockenden inquiry and the police inquiry, I personally hope the playing field is levelled and everyone is heard.”

West Mercia police and crime commissioner John Campion said: “I am grateful to the policing minister for recognising the significant impact of this major investigation on West Mercia. This is an incredibly important investigation that will provide justice for the victims and families affected.

“As commissioner, I am resolute in my commitment to seek justice and answers for victims. I want to also see that those affected receive the support they need as this investigation gets underway.”

A final report by the Ockenden inquiry team is expected to be published later this year.

The inquiry has recently appealed for staff at the trust to come forward to share their experience but would not reveal how many NHS workers did come forward.

The Royal College of Midwives’s new president Rebecca Davis, who worked at the trust for 30 years, refused to reveal to The Independent if she had approached the Ockenden team.

A spokesperson for the college said: “Inquiries such as the one being undertaken at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust are founded on getting to the truth and, fundamentally, ensuring that such events are never repeated.

“That is why we are grateful to Donna Ockenden, in her pursuit of the truth, for giving staff the opportunity to share their reflections with the inquiry in confidence. This applies not only to what has been said but also to who has said it. It would be against the spirit of this offer if individuals were to be asked whether or not they have done so.”

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