CIVIC chiefs tasked with holding hospital bosses to account in Gloucestershire are going to complain to the BBC amid claims a Panorama investigation which revealed the deaths of babies and mothers was “a hatchet job”.

The Panorama episode, ‘Midwives under Pressure’, investigated the crisis in maternity care and interviewed whistleblowers within Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The episode, which aired in January, highlighted the deaths of two babies and a mother between 2019 and 2021 and featured interviews with midwives and families.

A meeting of Gloucestershire County Council health overview and scrutiny committee this week (March 12) raised questions over the accuracy of the statistics used in the show, rather than the county’s maternity services which are rated as inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.

BBC Panorama found that seven women under the care of the GH NHS Trust died while pregnant or shortly after giving birth – between 2018- 2022.

Panorama claimed the trust had a significantly higher maternal death rate then than the UK average, about twice the national average.

However, the trust says not all the deaths were attributable to its care and that if maternal deaths are looked at over a longer time, they are in line with the national average.

The BBC stands by its Panorama film and says it was’ rigorously researched’ and made in line with the ‘highest editorial standards’.

Kevin McNamara, trust chief executive, told Tuesday’s meeting: “Panorama journalists raised questions about the maternal death rate in the county.

“In the line of questioning before the programme went out, Panorama shifted its position a number of times, moving from a death rate that was four times the national average to three times the national average to just under twice the national average.

“We engaged with an organisation called MBRRACE, they are the national experts when it comes to maternal mortality, hosted by the University of Oxford and asked them to share their perspective.

“The important issue for us at the time was not to focus on the data. This wasn’t a story about data, it was a story about two babies and a mum that died under our care that the outcomes could and should have been different.”

He said the cases were investigated at the time by external bodies and the learning from that has been taken on by the trust.

Mr McNamara said the trust notified the BBC and shared the statement MBRRACE had issued.

“When you read that you can see why they say these comparisons are inaccurate and not appropriate,” he said.

Chairman Andrew Gravells (C, Abbey) said the committee will write to the BBC to request they issue a statement accepting they were wrong.

Cllr David Drew (L, Stroud Central) said: “Sadly these things are a hatchet job. Panorama is a hatchet programme.

“That’s what it has become, they just happened to pick on Gloucestershire.

“But it did highlight, if I am a pregnant woman, I would be worried at the moment and that’s the sad thing.”

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (LD, Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach), who has called for an independent inquiry into the failures, said writing to the BBC takes the focus away from the legitimate questions the committee should be asking the NHS.

But Councillor Adrian Bamford (LD, Up Hatherley) said he would support writing to the BBC. He said it gave an “unbalanced” picture.

“By the end of that programme, well, it’s lucky the TV survived, frankly,” he said.

“I was getting pretty fed up with it. Not because I didn’t feel there was a strong need to bring the problems in maternity services to light... The lack of statistical information they put forward was poor.”