East Kent NHS Hospital Trust Maternity Care Crisis
The review into the maternity care crisis at East Kent NHS Hospitals Trust highlights yet again the need to genuinely and compassionately listen to and act on parents’ concerns.
Again, the shocking findings of yet another independent review into maternity care are in the news, this time at East Kent NHS Hospitals Trust. Driven by brave yet distraught parents, the review reveals a “clear pattern” of “sub-optimal” care, a culture of “covering up the scale and systemic nature” of its problems and a lack of compassion and kindness in the care delivered. Tragically, up to 45 babies died needlessly, with some of the most distressing accounts coming from parents who so sadly lost babies as a result of failings in maternity care, only to then experience a startling lack of compassion and kindness from healthcare professionals in the aftermath.
In my work as Head of the Complex Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, I have seen time and time again the far reaching and lifelong impact of poor maternity care on mothers and fathers. Not only do they have to cope with the unexpected and devastating loss of a child, but many will suffer psychological trauma, including the condition PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which can impact on all aspects of daily living. Parents with PTSD will often involuntarily relive the traumatic event through flashbacks and in nightmares. They may have invasive and persistent negative thoughts of the traumatic experience and also have physical symptoms including pain, sweating, feeling sick and trembling.
Over the years, my specialist team has secured compensation for a number of parents who have sustained psychiatric injury following the tragic and avoidable deaths of babies caused by substandard maternity care before, during or shortly after childbirth.
Worryingly, we have been here before. After having experienced the unbelievably horrendous and traumatic ordeal of losing a child, the parents of babies who died at Shrewsbury who expressed concerns to the Trust were met with a wall of silence, a lack of compassion, and, quite chillingly, told they were to blame. Now we are hearing from parents who lost babies at Kent and who were also treated with a lack of compassion. The stories are heartbreaking. When one considers the depth of the trauma and loss involved, it is both difficult and uncomfortable to accept that this could still happen in a healthcare setting in this day and age.
As I have said before, at the very least, these parents deserved to be genuinely and compassionately listened to, to receive a full apology and an honest and open explanation of what went wrong. The brave parents concerned have driven this review, but now they need at the very least to be reassured that lessons have been learned and that other families will not have to go through the same tortuous experience. They also deserve support to help them to cope with and manage the impact of the psychological trauma they have experienced.
Let’s hope their very courageous efforts won’t be futile.