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Serious Concerns Regarding Maternity Services

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Serious concerns regarding maternity services at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust

BBC's Panorama investigated the maternity services of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust after the tragic deaths of two babies and a mother between 2019 and 2021.

They reported that midwives employed by the Trust felt that poor culture and staff shortages at the Trust led to baby deaths that could have been avoided.

Cheltenham Birth Centre which is part of the Trust does not have emergency facilities. However, it allowed women with low-risk pregnancies the option of giving birth at the Centre under the care of midwives. In the event of complications, women were to be transferred to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

BBC Panorama reported that Jasper White died in July 2019 and Margot Bowtell died in May 2020, and on both occasions, midwives did not get their patients transferred to the hospital quickly enough.

The midwives who were on duty at the time are being investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

BBC Panorama has also reported that:

  • Seven women under the care of the Trust died while pregnant or shortly after giving birth - between 2018 and 2022 - about twice the UK average for maternal deaths. The Trust has responded that not all the deaths in that period were attributable to its care.

  • In the first six months of 2023, the Trust was short of more than 50 midwifery staff on average.

A further incident occurred in the Trust in 2022.  

Mrs X had gone to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital for her labour to be induced. She should have been taken to the delivery suite, but there were no midwives available to give her the required care. After five days of waiting, the baby's heartbeat could no longer be found.

An investigation into the death was carried out by The Health Services Safety Investigations Body (HSIB) and it was found that "sufficient staffing may have altered the outcome for the baby".

Midwives told Panorama that work pressures caused by staff shortages had made them ill, and at one stage, maternity management at the Trust discouraged them from formally reporting staffing concerns as there was "no point… because we can't do anything about it."

Three independent reviews into maternity care failings at individual Trusts in England have taken place in the past decade.

The Cheltenham Birth Centre is now only used for antenatal appointments.

The Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust says it is "deeply sorry... that failings in our care led to these tragic deaths". It says the independent investigations have resulted in "significant learning and changes".

Across England, multiple NHS maternity units are reported to be overstretched and understaffed. Ten per cent of maternity units in England are now rated inadequate for safety by the Care Quality Commission, including at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Receiving inadequate antenatal care / poor care during labour can result in tragic consequences for the mother and/or the baby.

If you believe that you or your child have suffered harm or injury due to negligent care, you may be entitled to compensation. Our leading team of experienced solicitors are here to guide you through the claims process on a no win no fee basis and help you understand what compensation you may be entitled to. Feel free to get in touch with us for a free no obligation discussion on 0121 355 0011.