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World News

'I was clinging onto my faith by my fingertips': Vicar caught up in recent NHS scandal speaks of despair over improper care of son

by Sophie Drew

An investigation has found that nine mothers and 201 babies died as a result of improper care on Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust maternity wards. 

The Ockenden report could be the most damning inquiry into NHS maternity care in UK history.

It states that staff failed to learn from their mistakes, and were obsessed with promoting natural births. 

The health secretary, Sajid Javid, says the government will "go after" those responsible for the incidents. 

Rev Charlotte Cheshire was one of the mothers affected by the improper care offered to mothers under the trust. 

Her son, who contracted Group Strep B and was not properly diagnosed, is hearing-impaired, visually-impaired, asthmatic and autistic.

Following the death of her husband in 2020, Rev Cheshire is now a single mother.

She described the publication of the report as "a mix of emotions". She said: "On the one hand, it's absolutely devastating because realistically, this report that I've got here, is over 230 pages of avoidable harm, ultimately, to mothers, to babies, to families. 

"So it I can't possibly say that it was good, because it's not a good report - it's a harrowing to read - but at the same time, there was a huge amount of it that was hugely vindicating as well, because so many families, mine included, have been fighting to be heard for years."

After Rev Cheshire's husband died, she was forced to resign her parishes in the Diocese of Leeds in order to care for her son, Adam. 

Despite being a woman of strong faith, she says that the last eleven years have pushed her faith "to the limit."

She continued: "There have been plenty of times when I would have said that I was clinging on to my faith by my fingertips.

"There have been various points when I've literally been unable to pray because I just haven't felt as though I've had anything to say to God. 

"It's bad enough for it to be a one-time event, but the fact that we then had a further three years of diagnoses, and then trying to raise a child with incredibly complex additional needs, and then in 2020, my husband dying of cancer.

"This has been one blow after the other. 

"Yes, I do still have a faith, of course I do, and it's a strong faith, and in the end, my faith has given me strength but it hasn't been a cookie cutter easy solution. 

"It's been something I've wrestled with, and something that I've had a lot of questions about, but I ultimately came to the conclusion that these events have happened and keep happening, and if I had made the choice to walk away from my faith, as I nearly did at times, then all it would really mean is that I was alone in the events, whereas choosing to hold on to my faith and to stay close to God has ultimately meant that even in the midst of the darkest times that these 11 years have held, but I haven't been alone in them."

After returning to Shropshire, Rev Cheshire is about to embark on a new part-time role that will allow her to continue her work as a priest whilst balancing motherhood. 

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