Aberdeen Maternity Hospital midwife to face 'injured babies' probe

HUNDREDS of births at a Scottish hospital are to be investigated after a midwife was suspended over concerns about the care of mothers and babies.

• Aberdeen Maternity Hospital

Police are investigating reports raised at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital, with the care of 22 women and babies over two-and-a-half years currently being examined.

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But NHS Grampian last night said health officials would be looking into hundreds of cases dating back around 20 years since the woman – who has not been named – started working as a midwife.

The health board stressed that the concerns involved the practice of one individual midwife, and no deaths were being investigated.

But they refused to confirm or deny reports that the investigation involved babies allegedly being injured while in the hospital.

NHS Grampian said that the midwife had been suspended on 19 March "pending the outcome of an investigation into her clinical practice".

The board said the midwife has been referred to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) after her suspension by the local supervising authority.

They said the suspension came after concerns were raised by colleagues and an internal investigation substantiated these concerns.

The case was then referred to Grampian Police who are now carrying out their own investigation.

Yesterday, the health board said it was understood some of the concerns related to injuries allegedly suffered by a number of the babies whose cases are currently being examined, including one who reportedly suffered a lack of oxygen for several minutes.

It is also understood that issues may have been raised after a high rate of emergency caesareans among the midwife's patients was noted.

NHS Grampian said they were co-operating fully with the police. But they claimed the information which they could now release to the public was limited because of the ongoing investigation, and were unable to confirm or deny any information put before them.

A spokesman confirmed that the midwife had about 20 years' experience and they would have to look back at records for hundreds of births as part of the continuing investigation.

Last night, the board said it was "anxious" to allay any concerns in the wider community about the investigation.

NHS Grampian chief operating officer Dr Pauline Strachan said: "Understandably, we are unable to go into detail without running the risk of prejudicing the investigation.

"However, I can reassure the public that our concerns focus on the practice of one individual midwife.

"We are not investigating any deaths and have no reason to believe there was any systemic failure in an otherwise excellent service.

"When concerns were raised, a thorough internal investigation was rapidly launched and the necessary action taken."

Dr Strachan added: "We're very alert to the need to support the families at a difficult time for them, and they will be given all the information available.

"Senior specialists will be available to them and for any follow-up meetings required. This is a very difficult situation for all concerned and this organisation will do all it can to support the families involved."

Dr Strachan said she was satisfied that Aberdeen Maternity Hospital continued to provide a "high standard of care" for the 400 babies born there every month. As well as the police inquiry, the complaint has been referred to NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, to review all the data surrounding the case.

A spokesman for Grampian Police said: "We are investigating a complaint made to us by NHS Grampian. Inquiries are ongoing and it would be inappropriate to comment further."

The Royal College of Midwives also said it was supporting midwives in the area but was not able to comment further.

The NMC said it was unable even to confirm or deny if the midwife had been referred to them for investigation.

Margaret Watt, chair of the Scotland Patients' Association, said the health board needed to make more information available about the case to allay the worries of parents.

"Why is this just being allowed to come out now if it could have been going on for so long?" she asked.

"I think they need to come clean. Unless we know, we can't comment in a true fashion. If they are having to go back 20 years, it must be very serious."

Ms Watt said that maternity care was a very sensitive area and parents needed to be given all the facts that were available.

"People are sometimes afraid to speak up because they may be frightened of reprisals if they have to go back into hospital," she added.

• A helpline, run by NHS 24, has also been set up by NHS Grampian for any concerned families on 08000 858 531.