RCM Statement following BBC Panorama programme on maternity services at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust

By RCM on 23 February 2022 NHS Midwives RCM Maternity Services Government Safety Maternity Safety Women Staffing Levels

Following the broadcast of Maternity scandal: Fighting for the truth, broadcast this evening by the BBC, Gill Walton, Chief Executive of The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said:   

“The pain of the families who have been permanently scarred by what happened at Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) has been made even worse by having to fight for answers. Nothing can take that pain away, but what we can do is work together – the NHS, professional organisations like the RCM and individual maternity staff – to ensure we learn from these mistakes and ensure that no family has to go through this again.

“Every day, women and families are being supported by midwives through pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. Every midwife works hard to ensure that those women get the right information and care at the right time to make the right decision for them and their baby – but too often this is undermined by gross underinvestment. The Government must do better to address the chronic midwife shortage and the lack of investment in this vital service.

“Too few midwives means there is a risk that safety will be compromised. The Government has to do more to train and employ more midwives, but also ensure we keep the ones we already have. For too long, the Government has only paid attention to services when something goes wrong. We want to work with them to create a system which prevents harm and supports women and families to have a positive, safe experience during pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period.”

The RCM is clear that there needs to be urgent action to address safety, understaffing and the poor cultures that sometimes arise because of unacceptable pressures on staff. For this to be successful, it must be a shared endeavour across NHS leadership and professionals working in midwifery – and it must be underpinned by proper investment by the Government.

Gill Walton continued:

“We want every woman and family that comes through maternity services to be confident that they will receive safe, good quality care. And we want every midwife and maternity support worker to be able to deliver that care. That needs proper, long term investment by the Government. Only then will we tackle the chronic workforce shortage which is contributing to and even embedding poor workplace culture that puts safety at risk. We are working with our members to empower them to speak up and speak out about poor practice, but we need NHS leadership within Trusts and Boards to step up too. The situation at Shrewsbury & Telford was allowed to continue because staff were too scared to ask for help and the Trust failed to intervene. That is not good enough and we will actively support our members to call this out whenever and wherever they see it.

“All of us involved in maternity care want to see a well-funded service that puts women at the centre of care. That service should empower them to make informed decisions about their care based on evidence-based conversations with their midwives – and not just decisions about labour and birth, but throughout the pregnancy. The Government has to demonstrate that it values maternity care – and women’s health – for that to happen.”