Healthcare is so important. None of us know when we or a family member will need it. We just know that when we do, it is likely to be the one of the most important things we will ever need.
For mothers and mothers-to-be, it is absolutely vital. Bringing a new child into the world puts incredible strain on body and mind – and that baby will in an instant become the most precious thing in your life. It’s why all the problems we have recently seen come to light with maternity services at East Kent Hospitals are so deeply concerning.
Since the troubling details from the inquest of baby Harry Richford – whose death at the QEQM Hospital in 2017 was described as avoidable – things seem to have snowballed. An even darker picture has emerged.
In transpires that as far back as 2015, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists produced a report citing serious problems. It was not passed to health inspectors until January last year, the same month a family from Dover would go through one of the worst experiences imaginable.
Tallulah-Rai Edwards, daughter of loving parents Nicholas and Shelley, died within 48 hours of Shelley being discharged despite expressing concerns about reduced movement in the womb. She says that during the monitoring process the midwife left her at times in the sole care of a student nurse, who had difficulties getting a reliable reading. Even though none could be obtained, the midwife stopped monitoring, signed it off noting the poor-quality, and discharged mother and baby. Tallulah-Rai would die shortly afterwards from hypoxia – or suffocating in the womb due to lack of oxygen.
I recently met with Nicholas and Shelley, who have been incredibly brave in what are absolutely awful circumstances. They gave me permission to tell Tallulah-Rai’s story in Parliament – and I have since pushed ministers tirelessly for action.
I therefore welcome the announcement last week. Government has now ordered an expert taskforce to oversee maternity services at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust. It will include some of the country’s very best midwives, consultants and medical directors. Many will be working directly on wards, right at people’s bedsides – until they are satisfied that quality of care has significantly improved. I have also called on the trust’s senior management to show they have what it takes to make the necessary improvements – and for consequences if they are not made swiftly.
We must see immediate change. Tallulah-Rai’s parents Nicholas and Shelley know that nothing can bring their daughter back. But they want to see more understanding, more compassion, more responsibility taken for the unacceptable failings that have led to so many baby deaths.
Most importantly, they say they want to ensure that no other parent has to go through what they have. I will be with them all the way, doing everything in my power to make sure that is the case.