The news that West Mercia Police has opened a criminal investigation, known as Operation Lincoln, into what has been described at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust as one of the worst scandals within an NHS maternity department in NHS history is a worrying but welcome development.
The Department of Health initially requested an investigation into 23 untoward baby and maternal deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust in 2017 but this soon became more extensive with over 270 deaths being investigated. It is understood that there are now over 1200 alleged cases involving deaths or serious harm to mothers and babies over a 40-year period.
The fact there have been numerous official inquiries and that the Police now consider a criminal investigation is warranted demonstrates the severity of the failures on the Trust’s part.
Shoosmiths is already representing a number of families who have lost babies or been injured themselves in the Trust’s maternity department. They feel a sense of relief: to them the criminal investigation offers a hope that the department’s practices will be investigated properly, the patients’ concerns will be taken seriously, and practices will have to change. Those within the department who failed time and again to make the necessary changes over the last 40 years will be brought to justice.
Our client Kamaljit Uppal, who lost her son in 2003, said “to lose my otherwise healthy son hours after his delivery was devastating but to learn that his death may have been the result of failures which could give rise to criminal charges is shocking. However, I hope the investigation gets to the truth of what happened.”
The criminal investigation in Shropshire is reminiscent of other recent investigations, most notably the breast surgeon Ian Paterson. Kashmir Uppal, a Partner with the Shoosmiths clinical negligence team, represented a number of patients who were injured by Mr Paterson. To her the criminal investigation into the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust maternity department has come as no surprise “I welcome this development because as we have found from previous experience, it is often only when a criminal investigation is launched that there is individual accountability on the part of the clinical staff involved. I very much hope that those responsible for the failings at this Trust face the consequences for compromising patient safety.”