Column: Swansea Maternity Unit

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on Social Justice and Equalities, writes about the need for the review of Swansea maternity services to include the voices of those affected.

This article was published in the Western Mail on Monday 22 January 2024.

The image shows a photograph of the column, written by Sioned Williams MS, that appeared in the Western Mail. The wording from the column is contained within this website article. The image also includes a photograph of Sioned Williams MS.

The maternity unit at Singleton Hospital has a special place in my memory, as it has for many parents living in the Swansea area. It’s where I had my two children.

So, when I read about the wide and serious catalogue of concerns raised in a recent report into the maternity services at Swansea Bay health board, I couldn’t help but be affected.

The issues raised in the report – which range from safe storage of medicine, overall cleanliness of the maternity unit, and a lack of measures to ensure babies are kept safe – would shock anyone, but what if you’re one of the many families directly impacted by some of the more serious events?

I recently met with my constituents Robert and Sian Channon, whose son Gethin was born with significant brain damage after complications during his birth at Singleton Hospital in 2019. They, along with a number of other families, have bravely spoken up about their experiences in the hope that other families do not have to go through the same thing as they did.

While many welcomed the decision by Welsh Government to place the health board under enhanced monitoring and the Health Board’s decision to commission an independent review into the quality of maternity care at the hospital, there are a number of outstanding concerns that the Channons and others feel have been overlooked.

One such concern is for the affected families to be granted a formal role in setting the terms of reference for the independent review, a say on the inclusion of relevant experts and a seat on the oversight committee.

However, the Channons inform me that many families have written to the health board to ask for parental involvement and have had no reply. I will be asking the Health Board to respond. 

Providing the families a clear voice throughout the review process is essential to restoring public trust in the health board, and it’s for this reason I recently wrote to the Health Minister to ask that she formally intervene to ensure they have a role.

The birth of a new child should be a joyful moment for all parents. Tragically, that was not the case for Mr and Mrs Channon and too many other families, who continue to live with the trauma of their experiences at Singleton Hospital.

The very least they deserve is an independent review process that delivers clear answers, closure, and the reassurance that steps are being undertaken to ensure their ordeals will not be repeated, in Swansea Bay or indeed at maternity services anywhere else in Wales.

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