Reflections on the publication of the Ockenden report

Posted on 14/12/2020 by Ed Hammond.


The final report of the review carried out by Donna Ockenden into maternity care at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital (SaTH) has just been published. It can be found here –

The report makes for grim reading. There are implications here for maternity services across England – and for health and care services more generally.

How should scrutiny seek to engage on issues like this as they emerge? We commented on this when Donna Ockenden put out a call for evidence last year. We’ve also commented on other evidence of pressing concerns in the health and social care sector. This aligns closely with a blog we published a few weeks back about the risk of being overwhelmed by issues of extremely high priority.

Many people will want to look at maternity services in their own area – to see what lessons they are taking from the Ockenden review. Given the substantial cultural issues highlighted in the report – and their pervasiveness within the NHS – it seems reasonable to expect that local government health scrutiny function should want to be proactive in their calling local trusts to account. Local people will rightly be concerned about their safety in these acute and community settings.

How to tackle this and issues like it comes down, as ever, to timeliness and proportionality, and starts with informal work. Making immediate contact with colleagues leading on maternity services to understand what review and improvement plans are under development – seeking assurance on their response to the report – is probably a good start. Using this conversation as a way to ensure that scrutiny is able to escalate concerns over a failure to learn lessons locally is a way to act with a degree of proportionality.

On risks to health and social care generally, scrutiny would not constantly bring a slew of matters of concern to committee for regular updates – a process which would likely be repetitive and unenlightening – but would carry out sufficient, lower-intensity background work to be able to draw up issues to committee if things looked like they might be going awry. Slipping timescales on action plans, incomplete or vague risk registers, a looseness in the reporting of performance information, concerns and worries expressed by local people – all of these could be a trigger for this escalation.

This is of course something on which we have written in abundant depth before, most recently in our publication on work programming, “Planning work, delivering impact”.

Are you thinking about the local response to the Ockenden report and considering how scrutiny can devote the time to understanding what local NHS action needs to be taken to learn lessons? If so – and if you think you might experience difficulty as you do this – please get in touch.

About the Author: Ed Hammond

Ed leads CfGS's work on devolution, transformation and on support to councils and other public bodies on governance and accountability.