• NHSI has raised concerns about the accuracy of a presentation to SATH board
  • Presentation on maternity mortality claimed trust was not an outlier for deaths
  • SATH is facing investigation into more than 200 cases of alleged poor care and deaths
  • Trust says presentation was accurate but has removed it from its website and said it will not be used again

Regulators have written to the chair of a hospital trust at the centre of a probe into maternity care to raise concerns he gave an inaccurate picture of the service’s mortality rates at a public board meeting.

Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust is being investigated by an independent inquiry looking at more than 200 cases of potential poor maternity care.

HSJ has learned NHS Improvement contacted trust chair Ben Reid over the accuracy of a presentation about maternity mortality to the meeting by clinical director for maternity, Adam Gornall.

The parents of babies Kate Stanton-Davies and Pippa Griffiths, who both died as a result of avoidable harm at the trust, raised their concerns with NHSI last year. They said the presentation, which took place in October, misled the public with inaccurate comments.

They said Mr Gornall claimed the trust’s mortality rates in maternity were not an outlier, and downplayed the level of harm being investigated by the review led by maternity expert Donna Ockenden.

The trust is an outlier for perinatal mortality, according to the most recent data, and has been for several years.

The trust has said that, while it thinks the presentation was accurate, it will not be used in future, and has removed a version from its website.

The trust was rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission and placed into special measures last year for concerns around safety, including in maternity. The regulator said the trust executive had a “culture of defensiveness”.

Rhiannon Davies, mother of baby Kate Stanton-Davies, told HSJ: “They are an outlier – they have been an outlier since before Kate was born in 2009.

“The Ockenden Review will not only prove that – it will prove that it is because they don’t learn, they won’t learn, they don’t want to learn. They arrogantly disregard their failings and are therefore damned to repeat them, sealing the fate – and the coffins – of mothers and babies. Their behaviour is criminal.”

In response to their concerns, NHSI national medical director Kathy McLean told the families in a letter last month: “As you will appreciate, data needs to be used carefully.

“Our position is that the MBRRACE data is probably the best comparator and the last figures show that the trust still has higher perinatal mortality than comparable units – these are 2016 but are [the] most recent available. Therefore, we have raised your concerns with the trust chair.”

A trust spokesman told HSJ: “We understand some concerns have been raised about some of the information in this presentation and can confirm that these have been raised with Ben Reid by NHS Improvement.

“Mr Gornall’s presentation should be read alongside the minutes of that meeting – the two should not be taken in isolation. The minutes clearly record SATH’s stillbirth and neonatal death rates as set out by MBRRACE.”

He said during 2013-16 the trust was operating as a level three neonatal unit but was benchmarked as a level two unit, meaning the fact it was treating babies more likely to die meant mortality rates would appear higher than those used for benchmarking.

The spokesman went on: “Mr Gornall’s presentation was designed to give a detailed picture of our service in a national context. His presentation was based on publicly available information and was not intended to mislead.

“Mr Reid has written to NHSI to explain that, while the information presented was factually accurate, it needed to be set within the wider context of the improvements the trust needs to make. Mr Reid confirmed that he had already stated in public at a recent board meeting that the trust will not repeat that format.

“The presentation will not be used in any future forums due to the evolving nature of the subject and the need to ensure we present the most up-to-date picture.”