NHS trusts under fire for adverts for midwives committed to ‘normal birth’

The job adverts drew condemnation on Twitter after being posted by patient safety campaigner James Titcombe.

08 April 2022

NHS trusts have come under fire for posting job adverts for midwives committed to “normal birth” – just over a week after a highly damning report into baby and mother deaths.

One advert posted by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust says it is “seeking a highly motivated, experienced dynamic midwife to join our team who is committed to the philosophy of normal birth.”

It says the staff member will work as part of midwifery unit teams that “are staffed by passionate, normality-focused midwives”.

A second advert from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust seeks a midwife for a midwife-led unit who is interested in the “promotion of normality”.

It adds: “Normality is promoted in all clinical areas, and we have an above average rate of out of hospital deliveries.”

The adverts, dated April 4, drew condemnation on Twitter after being shared on Thursday by patient safety campaigner James Titcombe.

Mr Titcombe’s son Joshua died at Furness General Hospital in 2008 from sepsis.

Similar adverts have been posted previously by NHS trusts in Lewisham and Airedale.

One of those asked for candidates who “will be able to demonstrate their commitment and dedication to…promoting the normal birth pathway and reducing intervention rates.

It took years for Mr Titcombe to uncover the truth of what had happened and his campaign led to the Morecambe Bay Inquiry, which found a “lethal mix” of failings led to the unnecessary deaths of one mother and 11 babies.

Last week, a review of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust found that around 200 babies and nine mothers could have – or would have – survived if it had provided better care.

In the review, senior midwife Donna Ockenden found the trust presided over catastrophic failings for 20 years – and did not learn from its own inadequate investigations – which led to babies being stillborn, dying shortly after birth or being left severely brain damaged.

The inquiry found some mothers were made to have natural births despite the fact they should have been offered a Caesarean.

Some babies suffered skull fractures, broken bones or developed cerebral palsy after traumatic forceps deliveries, while others were starved of oxygen and experienced life-changing brain injuries.

The report said midwifery staff were “overly confident” in their abilities, and there was a reluctance to involve more senior staff, while the trust’s low Caesarean rate was regarded nationally and locally as a good thing.

On Thursday night, it emerged that Ms Ockenden would be willing to chair a separate review into alleged failures at another trust.

Some 100 mothers have written to Health Secretary Sajid Javid to criticise the thematic review of maternity incidents currently under way at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) and called for Ms Ockenden to be put in charge.

Ockenden report
Donna Ockenden, chair of the Independent Review into Maternity Services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (Jacob King/PA)

She said she would chair the Nottingham review but that it was not her decision to make.

Of the letter to Mr Javid, a Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said it took “patient safety concerns at Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust’s maternity services very seriously.

“The Trust is taking action to improve services but we are closely monitoring progress in improving the standard of care for mothers and babies.”

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