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Maternity scandal inquiry chair wanted to ‘close down’ aggrieved families In

05 Apr 2024 5 minute read
Photo Swansea Bay University Health Board

Martin Shipton

Families whose lives have been devastated by poor standards of care at a maternity unit have renewed their call for a leading barrister to be removed from an independent review into what went wrong after learning that she wanted to “close them down”.

Margaret Bowron KC was appointed by Swansea Bay University Health Board at the end of January to take charge of the review of its Maternity and Neonatal services.

But after a series of email exchanges with Ms Bowron, 29 families said they did not believe she is the right person for the job.

Health inspectors who undertook an unannounced three-day inspection of the board’s unit at Singleton Hospital, Swansea in September 2023 concluded that the safety and wellbeing of mothers and babies could not be guaranteed in it.

Their report outlined a catalogue of bad practices including the inadequate training of staff, a failure to have the required number of midwives on duty, poor safety practices and unacceptably low levels of security which together placed mothers and babies at risk.

‘Covered up’

In a number of instances it is believed babies at the unit have suffered severe negative health impacts as a result of inadequate care. Gethin Channon, now four, was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy – a severe disability that requires 24/7 care.

An independent review commissioned by the health board found “several adverse features” surrounding Gethin’s delivery that were omitted from or “inaccurately specified” in the hospital’s internal report. The family of Gethin believe the health board “covered up” the failings in their case.

Gethin’s parents, together with 28 other affected families, argue that Ms Bowron should not lead the overall review of the maternity unit.

In February, Rob and Sian Channon released an email exchange between them and Ms Bowron which began with asking the barrister whether she would be prepared to meet representatives of the aggrieved families. She refused.

The Channons responded: “Our view is that the families should have been involved in this process from day one. Families should have been heavily involved in setting the terms of reference. We should have been consulted on your appointment as Chair of the oversight panel.  We were not. There has been no consultation with any affected families or victims.

“Families should be on the oversight panel. The health board has only confirmed a ‘patient voice’. For clarity the charity they approached has turned this down. From your email it seems to us that you will not be inviting families to sit on this panel. Is this accurate?  Families should be involved in the selection of all experts. How can you defend this current position?

“We are unfortunately in the situation where we have a maternity review commissioned by the very executive directors who ignored the warning signs in the maternity service for up to 10 years, resulting in harm to hundreds of mothers and babies. The health board risk assessments show they knew the problems in 2011. I am sure you will agree that is unacceptable. The review should have been commissioned by NHS Wales or the Welsh Government.”


Following a subject access request made by the Channons under data protection law, Bevan Brittan LLP, solicitors working for Swansea Bay University Health Board on the review, have now released a series of documents to them, including a draft email to Mr Channon sent by Ms Bowron for approval by Bevan Brittan.

The draft email to Mr Channon included a section that said: “With regard to the contents of your email, I should point out that my role is to chair the Oversight Panel not to carry out the review which will be done by other professionals so my meeting with you now is probably not appropriate.”

This is followed by a comment from Ms Bowron within square brackets that reads: “Not sure whether to include this but I do want to close this down.” In the event, the final version sent to Mr Channon included a stronger sentence that said: “I should point out that my role is to chair the Oversight Panel not to carry out the review itself which will be done by other professionals so me meeting with you now is not going to be the right course.”

A statement issued by the Channons on behalf of the aggrieved families said: “We are saddened that a KC, who should have the victims and families at the forefront of their mind in a maternity review like this, wants victims ‘shut down’.

“We have come across this turn of phrase so many times when dealing with the health board and Welsh government but to hear it from an ‘independent’ KC when all we have asked for is a meeting is startling.

“It cannot be stressed enough the disregard with which victims and families have been dealt with. It has been 16 weeks since the review was announced publicly. Not one family has been spoken to that we are aware of.

“The review needs to be scrapped and started again, this time without being under control of Swansea Bay University Health Board, Bevan Brittan LLP and Margaret Bowron KC.”

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