Brighton Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH): Another Maternity Services Scandal and Police Probe into Deaths

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In the wake of the scandals involving several NHS maternity units across the country, the BBC has uncovered concerns surrounding the maternity care provided by Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Following an Inquest into the death of Abigail Fowler at RSCH, the Coroner found that Abigail’s life would have been prolonged but for the failure to admit her mother.

The BBC revealed that in October, families whose babies either died or suffered harm whilst at RSCH have called for a statutory National Public Enquiry. Mr Miller, Abigail’s father, told Newsnight: “A national inquiry is the only way forward – we cannot continue to treat every incident as a separate tragedy.”

In response, the minister for women’s health strategy told the BBC that the Department of Health and Social Care was “working incredibly hard to improve maternity services”.

The BBC reported that England’s healthcare regulator advised that “maternity units currently have the poorest safety ratings of any hospital service it inspects”. An analysis by the BBC of Care Quality Commission (CQC) records revealed that it deemed two-thirds (67%) of them not to be safe enough, up from 55% last autumn.

Maria Caulfield, minister for women’s health strategy, said the Department of Health and Social Care “had invested £165m since 2021 to grow the maternity workforce and improve neonatal services”, but there was “more to do”.

In addition to the call for an enquiry into the maternity care provided by RSHC, the BBC revealed the Police are investigating deaths at Brighton’s Royal Sussex County Hospital about alleged failings in general surgery and neurosurgery between 2015 and 2021.

Although the Police and RSCH were unable to confirm the number of deaths under investigation, it was suggested, according to the BBC, to be “about 40”.

Amanda Cavanagh, Associate in Ashtons Legal Medical Negligence team, comments: “Sadly, it is not a shocking headline that patients and parents are calling for another enquiry into potential failures in maternity care, and it should be! Families are no longer prepared to sit back and keep quiet when they know that something “just wasn’t right”, although acknowledged not all incidents of death or harm are a result of failures in care. We risk losing the NHS entirely with each revelation of yet another investigation. The families affected by loss or harm need change and deserve to be treated with honesty and compassion, not a cover-up”.

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