30 March 2022
Philip Dunne responds to Ockenden Report on maternity

Philip Dunne praises the courage and tenacity of his former constituents Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton who initiated this report and calls on the Secretary of State to ensure that all the recommendations are put in place nationally and in Shropshire and Telford NHS Trust.

Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)

I thank my right hon. Friend for both the tone and the substance of his response to this devastating report. Let me also add my voice to the consensus throughout the House that the way in which this is handled is vital, and that we must ensure that the NHS takes Donna Ockenden’s recommendations on board. She and her team of more than 90 experienced clinicians are properly being thanked for the work that they have done. They have painstakingly reviewed these cases going back some 20 years, which must have been harrowing for them, as of course it has been for all the families so tragically affected who have had to relive their tragedy.

In particular, I want to praise the courage and tenacity of Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton, who were my constituents when they lost their baby Kate in truly awful, and tragically avoidable, circumstances. It was they who kept pressing for answers from Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. That led me to take them to see the then Health Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt), who agreed to launch this review five years ago. They are no longer my constituents, and I understand that they are now understandably keen to focus their attention on their family, having been living with this trauma since 2009.

I have some questions for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Does he recognise that the Ockenden review has raised fundamental questions for maternity services across the NHS over the culture of so-called normal birth, and that a focus on targets, under successive Governments, rather than on patient outcomes, can distort clinical best practice and, tragically, patient safety? Following his discussion with the trust’s current chief executive, which he has mentioned, is he satisfied that the current management and clinical teams have accepted the “local actions for learning” recommendations in the initial Ockenden report, and are committed to studying and rapidly implementing all further recommendations specific to the trust? Finally, what reassurance can he give the thousands of expectant mothers in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin that the maternity services there are safe, and that patient safety is paramount?

Sajid Javid (The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care)

I thank my right hon. Friend for the way in which he has worked with the Department and with my predecessor in representing his constituents throughout this investigation. He referred to “so-called normal birth” in his question, and he was right to do so: the only normal birth is a safe birth, which is what the NHS should be working towards, but that did not happen in this trust. The report has made that absolutely clear. Just as important are its recommendations, including some for my right hon. Friend’s local NHS trust. I can reassure him—partly as a result of my conversation earlier today with the current chief executive—that all the recommendations in the interim report have been implemented by his local trust, and all those in this report have been accepted.