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New disclosures about mismanaged maternity unit put pressure on Eluned Morgan

03 May 2024 5 minute read
Health Minister Eluned Morgan. Photo Welsh Government

Martin Shipton

Fresh disclosures about the mismanagement of a hospital maternity unit have led to criticism of Cabinet Secretary for Health Eluned Morgan for not shutting it down.

Health inspectors who undertook an unannounced three-day inspection of Swansea Bay University Health 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.

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.

Review

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.

More recently concerns intensified after the release of further damaging documents by the health board that contain a reference to a “maternal death” due to an “organisational issue”.

Singleton Hospital. Image: NHS Wales

Now there have been further revelations with the freedom of information disclosure of a ministerial briefing paper relating to the damning report published earlier by Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW).

Gethin’s father Rob Channon told Nation.Cymru: “We have come across a Welsh Government FOI, released last week relating to Singleton maternity unit. This wasn’t our FOI – we have no idea who did it.

“It is ‘Official Sensitive’ documents between the Welsh Government and HIW from around the time of the HIW report in December.

“You might think the report was published and well covered – indeed it was. However ‘Document 2’ is a briefing from HIW to Eluned Morgan. One figure we have never seen before is included in it.

“Alongside the seven serious issues identified, they also found 38 general areas for improvement. This is a new number for us, bigger than we realised. It also shows that HIW were ‘unhappy’ with the health board’s plan in 15 areas, so had to seek further assurances.”

“Scandal”

The HIW briefing document stated: “We initially partially accepted the health board’s initial response to the immediate assurance process. Further detail around actions regarding staffing levels, mandatory training, and security was provided and we accepted the re-submitted response. A total of 38 general areas for improvement were further identified. These included issues around patient information, access to breastfeeding support, location of the bereavement room, pain relief being given in a timely manner, and engagement with people from diverse backgrounds. We also raised issues around escalation procedures, and infection prevention and control.

“Whilst the health board provided a response to the recommendations, we needed further assurances on 15 areas as we were unhappy with some of the stated timescales, and level of detail of some responses. An improved response was submitted and accepted on December 11 2023. The report at Document 1 contains the accepted response to the recommendations.”

Mr Channon said: “Along with the Improvement Cymru documents [which refer to the ‘maternal death’] Nation.Cymru has already covered, we don’t understand how Eluned Morgan didn’t close the unit down. This is a direct briefing for Eluned Morgan. We argue that although she put the health board in ‘enhanced monitoring’ the new HIW briefing and Improvement Cymru documents show it was so unsafe – and that’s our strong belief – that it should have been closed. She was neglectful in not taking stronger action.

“The scale of the scandal has been downplayed by the health board and the Welsh Government, and there is a need for an inquiry into what went wrong that should not be at health board level, but now at a Welsh level.”

Swansea Bay University Health Board has commissioned barrister Margaret Bowron KC to undertake an independent review aimed at determining what has gone wrong at the unit, but the parents’ group has expressed no confidence in her, saying she has refused to engage with them properly.

Asked to respond to Mr Channon’s latest comments, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We welcome the Healthcare Inspectorate Wales report. It forms an important part of our enhanced monitoring processes of maternity and neonatal services in Swansea Bay University Health Board.

“We will continue to monitor the health board’s progress delivering the implementation plan to address actions set out in the HIW report.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

Sack her because we can’t vote her out…she is part of the problem…

Nicola
Nicola
20 days ago

My daughter had a horrific experience in giving birth here in 2020 and almost died. She was even denied gas and air ‘because of Covid’ which should not have happened.
She has been advised to take legal action and what should have been a beautiful experience to look back on has become a traumatic memory.

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