Last week saw the publication of the final ‘Ockenden Report’, which looked into failings with our maternity services, and through this column we would like to again offer our wholehearted apologies for the pain and the distress that has been caused.

As a Trust, we take full responsibility for our failings and acknowledge the determination of the women and families involved.

We are determined to ensure that the care we provide today and in the future is safe, effective, high quality, and delivered always with the needs and choices of women and families at its heart.

In this regard, we are making progress and, thanks to the hard work and commitment of my colleagues, the wide range of actions we were asked to lead on in the first Ockenden Report have been delivered. We realise that we still have much more to do and will now be focusing our attention on the actions set out in this final report.

As our Chief Executive Louise Barnett has said: “We owe it to those families we failed, those we care for today and in the future, and our valued colleagues providing that care, to continue to make the necessary improvements so we are delivering the best possible care for the communities we serve.” I, and my dedicated team, echo this commitment and we will continue to do everything we can, every day, for the women and children we are caring for.

The number of COVID-19 cases in our communities has risen rapidly over the past few weeks and we currently have more patients in our hospitals than at any point in the pandemic.

We also have extremely high levels of staff absence through COVID-19 across the whole of the health and social care system.

For these reasons Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Integrated Care System declared a system critical incident on Tuesday last week and we are all working very hard together to do all we can to improve the situation.

The extreme pressures within the system have unfortunately resulted in some planned surgery being stood down, but we have had to make this difficult decision so that we can free up more staff to support those with the most urgent needs.

Please though do continue to attend your planned hospital appointments unless you are told otherwise.

You can help by asking yourself, if you are thinking about attending A&E, if the emergency department is the right place to go for the care you need.

A&E is for genuinely life-threatening emergencies – for example chest pains or severe bleeding or burns. If you have a life-threatening illness or injury please continue to dial 999.

But, if your condition is not life-threatening please visit your pharmacy or NHS 111 online which will point you in the right direction for advice or treatment.

We are very sorry for those impacted by this, but COVID-19 has not gone away. I would urge you to still take simple steps such as washing your hands regularly, keeping a distance and wearing a mask in crowded settings to try to stop the spread. Thank you so much for your support.