Hundreds of healthy babies may have been aborted at the University Hospital of Wales
An investigation by the Ombudsman of Wales has found that hundreds of healthy babies may have been aborted at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff after discovering NHS staff had been using outdated guidelines for diagnosing miscarriages.
The ombudsman found that women at risk of miscarriage were routinely given external ultrasound scans at UHW, which could have wrongly implied that they had miscarried their babies, rather than the recommended and more accurate internal transvaginal scan.
The shocking revelation came to light when Emily Wheatley, 31, was told by UHW staff that her baby had died at nine weeks gestation, but a scan at a different hospital where she went to be given drugs to deliver the baby's body showed that her baby was alive and well.
"When I saw the baby clearly on the screen, I couldn’t really believe that the University Hospital of Wales had got it wrong. I feel angry at the decision to not follow a simple process which could have prevented this misdiagnosis," she told the Daily Mail.
The happy conclusion to Wheatley's story is a daughter name Ella, now eight months old.
However, the young mom said she was traumatized by the events.
"It’s just unbelievable that there are potentially other women out there who have been diagnosed with having a silent miscarriage," Ms Wheatley said. "And they potentially have got rid of healthy babies – that frightens me," she said. "Maybe hundreds of babies have been lost because of their decision."
The investigation found UHW staff were "systematically failing" to perform the correct scans on women with suspected early pregnancy loss, and that the 'fundamental error" in procedure goes back to 2006.
The report from Peter Tyndall, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, says well-established clinical guidance was ignored for all those years, and that the findings will be "extremely disturbing" for women who have had abortions because of misdiagnosis during that time.
While a spokesman for the Royal College of Gynaecologists, which issued the guidelines, told the Daily Mail that almost every health unit in England was adhering to the recommended procedure, Tyndall has asked the Welsh Government to check that all health boards are now complying with the proper guidelines.
The ombudsman's report ordered the Cardiff and Vale Health Board to pay Wheatley £1,500 in compensation.
"Were it not for the fortunate circumstance of [Wheatley] seeking her post-miscarriage care at an alternative hospital, it seems likely that these failings would have resulted in the medical termination of a healthy, viable pregnancy," Mr Tyndall said.