Thursday’s Board meeting of SaTH, our local hospital organisation, was downright bizarre. They closed most of the building where the meeting was held. Members of the public were greeted by security guards on our way in, and taken to a separate room to wait. Our bags were searched as we entered the building. Anyone visiting the toilet was carefully watched, with a security guard waiting outside. Three security guards sat around the sides of the room throughout the meeting. They were pleasant individuals and somewhat embarrassed – but it all felt closer to a high security prison than a public Board meeting. According to NHS England, the ‘purpose of NHS boards is to govern effectively, and in so doing build patient, public and stakeholder confidence that their health and healthcare is in safe hands’. Our Board’s approach to building confidence now seems to be to regard the public with hostility and suspicion.
There may be a reason for their fear. We believe they were trying to keep quiet about a series of avoidable deaths in local maternity services – and the truth about those deaths is now starting to emerge. In February, Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt ordered a review into a cluster of baby deaths in Shropshire. That review is now looking at the deaths of fifteen babies and three mothers. At least seven baby deaths between September 2014 and May 2016 have already been shown to be avoidable – they simply should not have happened.