Sajid Javid vows to ‘go after’ those responsible for NHS maternity scandal

Health secretary says he wants people held to account for Shrewsbury and Telford hospital trust failings

Sajid Javid has vowed to “go after” the people responsible for the biggest maternity scandal in the history of the NHS, saying he will “leave no stone unturned” to ensure they are held to account.

An independent inquiry led by Donna Ockenden found that 201 babies and nine mothers could have or would have survived if Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust had provided better care. No staff member or health leader in charge was identified in the damning 234-page report published on Wednesday, despite presiding over catastrophic failings.

But on Thursday the health secretary said he was “appalled” by the conclusions of the inquiry. He promised to track down the individuals whose failures left hundreds of babies dead or severely injured.

Speaking at Barking community hospital, where he was visiting a diagnostics centre, Javid said it was right the government had accepted the report’s recommendations “to make sure this kind of thing never happens again”. “But it is also right – and I’m absolutely determined to do this – that we make sure we go after the people responsible,” he said.

“Of course there were systemic failures, we must change systems, but there were also individual failures, and I want to make sure that we leave no stone unturned in finding the people that were responsible for this and making sure that they are held to account.”

The patient safety charity, Action against Medical Accidents, backed Javid’s call for tough action against bosses who had run the trust, saying it “wants the people responsible for scandals like this to be held to account and not be able to take up similar roles elsewhere”.

The group, which was a core participant in the Mid Staffordshire care scandal official inquiry, also urged ministers to bring in the regulation of senior NHS managers, to mirror the systems already in place for many health professionals so they can be banned if found guilty of rule-breaking.

Peter Walsh, the group’s chief executive, said: “There must also be accountability for senior managers responsible for awful scandals like this. There should be regulation of senior managers similar to arrangements in place for doctors and nurses, so that they can be struck off a register and prevented from taking on similar roles.”

Walsh also voiced concern that some of the recommendations from the 2015 inquiry into the Morecambe Bay maternity scandal, as well as Ockenden’s initial findings published last year, had still not been acted on. For example, there has been “little or no progress” in the creation of “senior independent advocates” to support women who have concerns about maternity services.

Police are examining 600 cases linked to the Shrewsbury scandal. Wednesday’s report into baby deaths at the trust condemned health staff and leaders for blaming grieving mothers while repeatedly ignoring their own catastrophic blunders for decades.

Earlier on Thursday a cabinet minister revealed she was told she would not be having a C-section despite enduring a “very difficult” labour with her first child. Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it made her “feel sick” to know “in too many cases difficult births can end in the most appalling tragedy”.

The international trade secretary told Times Radio she was “basically told I wasn’t going to have a caesarean section”. She said the Shrewsbury inquiry, which found several mothers were forced to have natural births when they could have been offered a caesarean, “reminded me that there has been for a long time a culture which says natural birth: good; caesarean: bad”.