Original Ockenden campaigners speak of ‘bittersweet’ milestone

Rhiannon Davies and Kayleigh Griffiths say they hope the report will bring about urgent change in maternity care across England.

30 March 2022

The first two campaigners who initiated the review into the UK’s biggest maternity scandal have spoken of their “bittersweet” milestone.

Richard Stanton and Rhiannon Davies, who have campaigned for years over poor care, lost their daughter Kate hours after her birth in March 2009.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Ms Davies said: “All we ever wanted was to understand why Kate died. It was as simple as that.

“It was so chaotic on the day of her birth – the day of her death – we just needed answers.

Ockenden report
Rhiannon Davies and Richard Stanton with a copy of the Donna Ockenden Independent Review into Maternity Services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (Jacob King/PA)

“I began to ask questions but we were met with such hostility and bold lies that really forced us to question what was going on, so it became a fight.

“There is just something unimaginable when you’re in the depths of the most horrendous grief and you’re just trying to fight to get answers and you’re being met with such appalling treatment.

“It’s been a very difficult period of time and it’s felt very, very much like you’re in such a hostile situation, which is challenging and frightening in itself.”

Another couple who have led the campaign for safer care are Kayleigh and Colin Griffiths, whose daughter Pippa died in 2016 from a Group B Strep infection. A year later, a coroner ruled her death could have been avoided.

Mrs Griffiths told PA: “Just for me, the sight of the report and how thick it is, and how comprehensive it is, I think we want to thank Donna, and her team, and all the families for coming forward.

“It’s so important that the learning is taken.

“This is 200-odd pages of harmed families. That’s a disgrace that they haven’t learned when we’ve told them what the issues were.

“So it’s really important, and it’s really important that maternity services up and down the country read this and listen to what families have gone through and the impact that’s had on people’s lives.

“Donna’s set out very clearly what action needs to be taken to address this.”

Ms Davies and Mrs Griffiths shared an emotional embrace following the publication of the Ockenden report on Wednesday.

Asked how proud she feels to have come this far, Mrs Griffiths said: “It’s really difficult to comprehend.

“We visited Pippa this morning before we came and we said, ‘This is what we’ve done for her.’

“It’s just heart-breaking. There’s so many stories, so many families here today.”

Mr Griffiths added: “It’s bittersweet. It’s an accomplishment but it didn’t need to happen.

“It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Ms Davies described the report’s publication as a “huge milestone”.

She added: “I feel the scrutiny should be on the report and on its findings.

Ockenden report
Kayleigh Griffiths and Rhiannon Davies were the first two campaigners who initiated the review into maternity care at the trust (Jacob King/PA)

“The MPs and the Health Secretary (Sajid Javid) have made great statements that this will never happen again – that they’re going to oversee the change.

“Families are affected in more than just this hospital trust. The learning is for the whole of the NHS services and I really hope the scrutiny stays on and there is momentum behind the actions that Donna has come up with.”

Ms Davies continued: “I’m really pleased with the work Donna has done. She has worked relentlessly and tirelessly and really has got to the heart of deep-seated problems.

“She’s been really great and bold in calling out this hospital trust for disallowing staff to speak out freely.

“She’s called out the regulators and rightly so.

“This is the first time I really feel someone has got our back – not just our back, all of the families’ backs.

“For so long, I’ve written quite literally thousands of letters, trying to raise awareness of what’s been going on.

“So to get to this point is incredible.”

Both Ms Davies and Mrs Griffiths spoke of how difficult the past few years have been.

“Last night, I couldn’t sleep,” Mrs Griffiths said.

“My anxiety was through the roof. I’ve suffered from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

“We’ve had to fight all the way along in this, so to finally be heard by Donna is a great achievement for all families.

“But I don’t think we’ve been heard by the trust yet.

“That’s the really important thing we need from this – that the trust need to recognise that words aren’t going to be enough.

“Once we stop getting stories – which we’ve had right up until today – of poor care in SaTH (Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust), we’re not going to be settled that any improvements have been made.”

Ockenden report
Rhiannon Davies and Kayleigh Griffiths react following the release of the final report (Jacob King/PA)

Ms Davies told PA she is doubtful the SaTH will be able to implement the actions set out in the report.

She said: “I have to say, of the 60 local actions, this trust haven’t got the capacity to embed one.

“Senior managers, in terms of clinical managers, are all embedded in the toxicity that created this appalling legacy.

“They don’t have the willingness, the ability… there’s nothing about them that will create the change that has to happen.

“So, as far as I’m concerned, the hospital trust needs to be disbanded. It needs to go the way of Mid Staffs.

“It’s just so deeply broken that I don’t think it can be fixed.”

Mrs Griffiths added: “There’s so many avoidable deaths that they could have learned from and haven’t.

“It’s been one after another, after another, after another.

“The similarities when we discuss it with other families… they are just so similar.”

Both Ms Davies and Mrs Griffiths say they hope the report will lead to better maternity care across the country.

Ms Davies said: “This feels like a baton. The baton was passed to us by the families in Morecambe Bay. It’s been passed forward to the families at Nottingham and East Kent.

“Collectively, the weight of required learning is now a gift from all of these affected families to the NHS.

“Then there are those in power, on excessive salaries at NHS England and the NHSI (NHS Improvement), who instead of navel-gazing have to take this.

“They have to implement it, they have to scrutinise it and they have to report publicly, through Parliament, on the recommendations and how they are embedded.

“I will not accept anything less.”

Mrs Griffiths added: “I hope there will be good care for all.

“I hope there will be care where it’s OK for mistakes to be made, just as long as they are recognised and then acted upon in the correct process.

“It shouldn’t be sat within the trust.”

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