Poor Maternity Tolerated as Normal: A Parliamentary Inquiry Reveals Troubling Trends

The cross-party inquiry The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on birth trauma led by Theo Clarke MP and Rosie Duffield MP has shed light on the alarming state of maternity care. The Birth Trauma Inquiry Report released on 13 May 2024, gathered distressing testimonies from over 1,300 women. The report has ultimately issued a call for a systemic overhaul of maternity and postnatal services in the United Kingdom.

The report titled “Listen to Mums: Ending the Postcode Lottery on Perinatal Care” was based on seven oral evidence sessions that took place on consecutive Mondays between 5 February and 18 March 2024 in the House of Commons. The Inquiry was also informed by written submissions which were received following a public call-for-evidence.

Harrowing Experiences and a Plea for Action
Many women shared their harrowing experiences, ranging from being left in blood-soaked sheets to enduring life-altering injuries to their children due to medical negligence. The inquiry shed light on the dismissive treatment of women’s concerns, instances of mockery, and the denial of basic necessities like pain relief during childbirth.

Key Recommendations
The report has pled for the establishment of a new maternity commissioner who would report directly to the Prime Minister. This role is envisioned to assist with publishing a National Maternity Improvement Strategy to focus on addressing the below key recommendations:

  • Strengthen Maternity Staffing: Increase and maintain the number of midwives, obstetricians, and anaesthetists, and provide trauma-informed care training.
  • Maternal Mental Health Access: Ensure all UK mothers have access to specialist mental health services.
  • Post-Delivery Health Checks: Introduce a dedicated 6-week postpartum health check for mothers.
  • Implement OASI Care Bundle: Adopt the OASI care bundle across all hospital trusts to minimize childbirth injuries.
  • Standardize Post-Birth Services: Nationwide implementation of services like Birth Reflections for mothers to discuss childbirth experiences.
  • Educate on Birth Choices: Provide antenatal classes and risk discussions at NHS Trusts for informed consent.
  • Honour Birth Preferences: Respect mothers’ birthing choices, including pain relief, and promote mother-baby bonding.
  • Support for Fathers: Offer continuous updates and support to fathers and birth partners during and after delivery.
  • Digitize Health Records: Improve care continuity by digitizing records and integrating IT systems for seamless information sharing.
  • Extend Litigation Timeframe: Increase the medical negligence claim period related to childbirth to five years.
  • Address Maternity Care Inequalities: Tackle care disparities for ethnic minority mothers by funding interpreter services and staff training.
  • Research Economic Impact of Birth Trauma: Commission studies on how birth trauma affects mothers’ return to work and the economy.

A National Tragedy
The inquiry’s authors urge a shift towards a maternity system where poor care is an exception rather than the rule. The report highlights the disproportionate impact on marginalized groups, especially ethnic minorities, who reported experiences of direct and indirect racism.

Moving Forward
The Birth Trauma Inquiry’s findings are set to be presented to ministers, with expectations for the government to implement the report’s recommendations fully. The inquiry’s call to action is clear: it’s time to transform maternity care from a system that tolerates poor care to one that exemplifies excellence and compassion..

The inquiry into birth trauma has unveiled the stark realities of maternity care in the UK. It stands as a testament to the urgent need for reform. It is clear that we need to ensure that families get the care and treatment they deserve during one of the most pivotal moments of their lives.

Our clinical negligence team has a wealth of experience in dealing with a variety of clinical negligence claims. If you think that you, or a loved one, may have been affected by negligent medical care, you are welcome to contact Karen Reynolds, Siobhan Genever, Lauren Green, Sonya Friend or Ibrahim Mahmood to discuss how we can help and support you.

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.

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