The largest ever review of maternity care in the NHS has revealed it is now examining nearly 1,900 cases.
The investigation into care at the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust is reviewing 1,862 incidents, the vast majority since the year 2000.
The update comes as a separate report said the trust had delayed publishing a critical report into maternity care for fear of negative media coverage.
The trust admitted standards had “fallen short for many families”.
The independent review into maternity care at the trust was ordered in 2017 by the former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
At the time the chair, midwife Donna Ockenden, was asked to look into 23 cases.
‘Further 496 families’
But since then an avalanche of families have come forward with concerns about the care they received. The BBC understands most cases relate to incidents since 2000.
Most of the new cases emerged after the review team asked the trust to examine its paper records.
An initial review ordered by NHS Improvement in 2018 only focused on electronic data but a fresh study was ordered when some families came forward to say they had been excluded.
“I would like to thank them [the trust] for all the work undertaken to reach this point,” said Ms Ockenden.
“By working together we have sadly identified a further 496 families as part of the review, who I am writing to this week.”
In an open letter, chief executive of the trust Louise Barnett said: “We should have provided far better care for these families at what was one of the most important times in their lives and we have let them down.
“An apology is not enough. What needs to be seen is evidence of real improvement at the trust. This is why we are committed to listening to families, our community, and working with Donna Ockenden’s review.”
In June, West Mercia Police announced that a criminal investigation had been launched into maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford, which is arguably England’s worst hospital trust.
The rise in the number of cases comes as the trust has been severely criticised for its handling of a review of maternity care in 2017 by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) .
The former chief executive, Simon Wright, “would not accept the report” when it was initially presented to him and led efforts to get the college to change its highly critical findings.
An investigation, carried out by NHS Improvement, said Mr Wright was motivated not just with concerns about the contents of the report, but also the “potential negative media scrutiny”.
Senior managers travelled to London for a highly unusual meeting, where they sought to assure the college that care had improved.
Only after the reviewers produced a more positive addendum report was the original published, together with the additional report.
NHS Improvement is critical too of the role of the trust’s board, who it found did not ask any questions of the contents of the report, despite being told at a private meeting that the RCOG reviewers had sent through their findings.
Four of the board from that February 2018 meeting, including chairman Ben Reid, are still at the trust.
“A number of individuals have described a culture of defensiveness, denial and/or lack of openness that existed at the time in the maternity service and trust more generally. While such a culture clearly does not excuse any actions or behaviours, it may help explain them,” NHS Improvement concluded.