Despite pressure from campaigners, NHS England has indicated that it will not publish results of a national audit prompted by the death of a baby girl.
The organisation has been exploring the quality of investigations that were carried out after the tragic incident took place.
But the commissioning body has indicated that although it accepted the recommendations of an independent review, it will not make public the methodology or findings of a national audit suggested by it.
The process had been instigated by the untimely demise of baby Kate Stanton-Davies.
Kate tragically died at a midwifery unit run by the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust in March 2009.
It is accepted that there were numerous failures made at the unit at the time of Kate’s death.
The parents of the child have reacted angrily, not unreasonably pointing out that they expected to see a process that could be described as transparent.
Yet NHS England has described the ongoing reaction to the investigation as an internal matter.
NHS England is the existing supervising authority for midwives practising in England.
As part of this responsibility, the organisation commissioned expert Debbie Graham to review events surrounding Kate’s death.
This followed a jury inquest and an investigation by the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman in 2013 which both concluded that the death was avoidable.
Both processes also concluded that there had been huge failures in the care throughout the time that Kate stayed in the hospital.
Graham went on to heavily criticise the local supervisor, suggesting that the quality of investigation carried out have been entirely unfit, particularly in terms of containing multiple inaccuracies.
The report had stated at the time that NHS England should carry out an audit in order to “seek assurance that the weaknesses in the investigatory process identified in this review are no longer inherent in the current process.”
Yet it seems now that the results of this process will never be made public. It is those understandable that parents of the infant are extremely disappointed by the process.
According to investigations, Kate was born “hypothermic, pale, floppy and grunting” at Ludlow midwifery led unit in Shropshire, in March 2009.
Her mother had been incorrectly classified as being low-risk.
That decision will be viewed as controversial, and indeed there will be question Marks regarding precisely why it has not been published.
It seems that these questions will go unanswered.
The British Fertility Society (BFS) has suggested that women from the age of 25 should be offered so-called ‘fertility MOTs’ on the NHS.
Central to these check-ups should be counting how ovaries these young women have left remaining.
Despite the fact that fertility actually diminishes rapidly during a woman’s thirties, this is a morsel of information that often escapes the notice of couples attempting to produce a baby.
Indeed, Prof. Adam Balen suggested that “every week in our clinics I see couples where surprise is expressed – they didn’t realise the degree to which fertility goes down in your 30s.”
In particular, the British Fertility Society noted that career women who consider themselves to be ‘in control’ on their own lives were often surprisingly ignorant of their dwindling ovarian reserve.
With this in mind, a national system of five-year checks, beginning at the age of 25, could help prevent women who wish to conceive from being unable to do so due to lack of ovarian produce, according to the BFS.
Cervical screening would be central to this process, but the British Fertility Society has also called for a wider program of education.
In particular, the aforementioned Balen has suggested that lessons for teenage girls and university students in how to protect and prolong fertility should be considered essential.
Family planning lessons should also be carried out at both schools and universities, as far too many women are currently optimistic about their biological clocks on the basis of anecdotal evidence.
“There is lack of understanding of the dramatic decline in fertility, and there are pressures to develop careers,” Balen suggested.
With regard to the new schemes, it has been pointed out that such checks are already offered regularly in other countries, with Denmark being a particular pioneer.
Regular screening could allow women to have a real insight into their current level of fertility, which could then have an impactful benefit on their decision or otherwise to attempt to conceive.
Women should also be given diet and lifestyle advice, with obesity and anorexia – which damage fertility – both on the rise according to advice from the British Fertility Society.
This latest advice comes in the context of a trend in which the age of motherhood continues to rise.
With this increasing average age of mothers, comes a parallel increase in the risk of infertility, miscarriage or babies suffering abnormalities.
Figures have also indicated that British women begin families later than equivalent females in other countries.
The average age at which women conceive in the UK is 30, which represents an increase of nearly two years in the last twenty years alone.
This figure compares to 28 in France and Scandinavian countries, and just 25 in the United States.
Balen suggested that the late 20s or early 30s should be considered the latest point for young couples to start a family.
There were 695,233 live births in England and Wales in 2014, a decrease of 0.5 per cent from 698,512 in 2013, and the total fertility rate decreased to 1.83 children per woman, from 1.85 in 2013.