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Top doctor ‘appalled’ at delays in dealing with mothers’ and babies’ care concerns

14 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Dr Dewi Evans. Photo Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Martin Shipton

The former head of child medicine at a hospital placed under enhanced monitoring over concerns for the care given to mothers and babies says he is “appalled” by delays in recognising the seriousness of the problem.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced on December 12 that Swansea Bay University Health Board, which manages Singleton Hospital, would receive “the comprehensive support it needs to deliver the improvement plans it has developed”.

But Dr Dewi Evans, a consultant who headed the paediatric and obstetrics departments at the hospital in the 1990s and 2000s, said the length of time it was taking to address the issues was unacceptable.

Dreadful

He said: “The fact that parents of a child born at the hospital in 2019 with quadriplegic cerebral palsy [a severe disability that requires 24/7 care] have had to wait four years for such action is dreadful. For me, it is a clear indication of what is wrong with the NHS today – the first instinct of hospital managements is self-preservation, and they have their own interests at heart, rather than those of the general public.”

The case referred to by Dr Evans is that of Gethin Channon, who was born at Singleton Hospital in March 2019. There were complications during his birth, due to his being in an abnormal position that prevented normal delivery, and he was eventually born via caesarean section.

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 investigation, carried out by obstetrician Dr Bill Kirkup, said the board had “significantly” downplayed the “suboptimal” care received by Gethin and his mother, Sian, and had erroneously attributed his condition to a blocked windpipe. It also suggested that amendments were retrospectively made to examination notes taken by staff during the course of Ms Channon’s labour. The family of Gethin believe that the health board “covered up” the failings in their case.

The health board told the Independent, which wrote about the Kirkup report in October 2022, that it had been “working tirelessly” with the family to investigate and address their concerns.

A review carried out by the health board “found no evidence to support the allegation that the records had been altered”.

Mistakes

Dr Evans said: “I’m not breaching any duty of confidentiality, because all I know about the cases is what I have learnt from the media, but it is clear to me that something has gone seriously wrong at Singleton Hospital. Mistakes can occur in the best run unit, but when something goes wrong during the birth of a baby it becomes apparent very quickly – usually within days. For parents to still be waiting years later to find out what went wrong is appalling.

“Midwives, consultants, junior doctors and health managers should be working together as a team, but very often managers want to protect the corporate reputation of the health board. It is terrible to hear the term ‘cover-up’ used, but I am afraid it seems right in the circumstances. The fact that this has happened in one case makes one fear what may have happened in other instances too.”

In parallel with the Health Minister’s December 12 announcement of “enhanced monitoring” of mother and baby care, the health board announced a further independent review into the issue.

The review will be supervised by an Oversight Panel, chaired by an individual not linked to the board. It will also factor in the experiences of Swansea Bay’s maternity and neonatal services’ users and staff. The review will examine mortality figures for 2021 and 2022, along with preliminary internal data for 2023.

Staffing

The board also highlighted the challenges it has been facing recently over staffing shortage. It said that to address this issue, it has been on a hiring drive, with 14 new midwifery care assistants and 23 new midwives hired since this October.

The health board’s chair Emma Woollett said: “Our teams of dedicated doctors, midwives, nurses and support staff are all passionate about providing the best possible care for our women and babies but over the last couple of years, there is no doubt that their work has been made more challenging as a result of a UK-wide shortage of midwives and other registered staff.

“That’s why we believe the time is right for a definitive independent review, overseen by an oversight panel that will be chaired by an individual unconnected to the health board.”


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Linda Jones
Linda Jones
6 months ago

Begs the question why weren’t the seriously low staffing levels addressed earlier? Managers not fit for purpose?

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

There you go, got it in one !

hdavies15
hdavies15
6 months ago

Evans is a top class “forensic” examiner as well as having spent a career as a practitioner in the NHS. Anyone thinking they may have dodged a bullet may need to think again because, if asked, he will find where the real problems lie. And Lying is part of the problem. People like Evans should be asked back into the NHS to chair their boards instead of the much favoured “insiders” from politics and its approved circle of puppets.

Jim Newman
Jim Newman
3 months ago

Dr ‘evidence for hire’ Evans is not a top doctor. He is a lying kunt

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