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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Baby unit 'must improve' safety
Kerry Luke and Abbie Louise Everitt
Abbie Louise Everitt died last year
A hospital which is being sued over the birth of babies born with brain defects should improve its safety procedures, a government watchdog has said.

The Healthcare Commission was looking at complaints that the babies suffered brain damage at the maternity unit, at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.

A number of parents believe their children were born with brain damage as a result of mistakes at the hospital.

The hospital said it was happy to act on the commission's advice.

The parents of nine babies have taken legal action or are considering it.

A Healthcare Commission spokeswoman told BBC Panorama: "We did not conduct a formal investigation but we did make enquiries and visit the trust to establish if there was a risk to patient safety."

But the Healthcare Commission identified six areas where the hospital needed to improve.

Two babies born within two weeks of each in 2004 suffered brain damage. Their families believe this may have been linked to faulty response to foetal heart readings.

Cameron Dickens-Smith and Abbie Louise Everitt, were both born with cerebral palsy.

Cameron Dickens-Smith
The parents of Cameron Dickens-Smith are suing the hospital

Abbie Louise died last year.

Their families are suing the hospital.

Panorama has also learned of three other parents whose babies have died following problematic births at Shrewsbury and four more whose babies were born with severe disabilities - all in the last five years.

In its report, the HCC has advised the hospital that it should start keeping audits of cardiotocograph (CTG) monitor traces and also send the latest CTG's to the HCC so that they can identify any learning's or improvements on a regular basis.

'Inappropriate training'

The Healthcare Commission found that there was a lack of and inappropriate training for the staff and it has told the trust it should develop training programmes and revise its current training programmes, particularly around emergency situations.

In addition, the Healthcare Commission said that the trust's risk management system needed improving and told it to review the way staff learned from the clinical incident forms and improve accountability for each incident.

The trust has also been advised to share its clinical governance structures with the commission.

And the watchdog has told the trust it now needs to consider appointing a full time clinical risk adviser for children and maternity.

'No investigation'

The trust's chief executive Tom Taylor said: "The Healthcare Commission came and undertook a review and decided that there was no need for a formal investigation."

He said the commission was satisfied with the clinical systems in place but made suggestions for improvements.

The hospital was happy with the report and will be working with the Healthcare Commission over the next few months to put their advice into practice.

Mr Taylor said, the commission visited the hospital after hearing from the solicitor representing the families of Cameron Dickens-Smith and Abbie Louise Everitt.

He said the two cases were not the same, they just shared the same solicitor.

Panorama: Midwives Undercover will be broadcast on BBC One, Thursday 3 May 2007 2000 BST.

The crisis on our maternity wards
01 May 07 |  Panorama
Maternity care failings debated
02 May 07 |  Health
Families sue over birth problems
30 Mar 06 |  Shropshire


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