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Maternity mistakes: 276,000 incidents logged in two years

The National Childbirth Trust has commented that maternity care in the UK is in crisis after NHS Improvement revealed that 276,767 mistakes in maternity care were reported between April 2015 and March 2017.

132 NHS Trusts reported mistakes to the voluntary reporting scheme in NHS Improvement over the 2-year period. Almost a quarter of these mistakes led to harm being done to the mother or the baby, with 288 cases ending with a death. The most severe mistakes include:

  • delays dealing with women who have suffered from haemorrhages;
  • babies being left brain damaged after oxygen deprivation during birth;
  • a lack of screening of babies for infections;
  • delays in emergency caesarean sections; and
  • women being told to stay home or sent away from maternity units despite reporting potentially serious problems.

The government aims to halve the overall rate of stillbirths, deaths and baby brain injuries by 2025, with the newly established Healthcare Safety Investigations Branch beginning investigations into all cases of unexplained serious harm and deaths from 2018. With maternity being the biggest reason for clinical negligence payouts (accounting for half of the cost of all £1.9bn worth of claims made in 2016), the NHS wants to create a learning culture so that similar mistakes can be avoided in the future.

However, the Care Quality Commission, the Royal College of Midwives and the National Childbirth Trust have highlighted that staffing is a concern in UK hospitals. The Care Quality Commission also judged half of maternity units “not safe enough”. Abigail Wood, head of campaigns at the National Childbirth Trust commented that:

“Maternity care is in crisis, staffing levels are dangerously low and midwives are being stretched to the limit.”

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.
Karen Reynolds

Author: Karen Reynolds

Partner & Head of Clinical Negligence for Derby, West Midlands & North West

Carolyn Lowe

Author: Carolyn Lowe

Partner & Head of Clinical Negligence for the South

Jane Williams

Author: Jane Williams

Partner, Head of Medical Negligence, East Midlands & North East

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