Maternity Mistakes - 276,767 mistakes were reported by maternity care services In England - the equivalent of one mistake every 5 births

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21 December, 2017

The BBC has today reported these figures.  They would appear to point to an alarming number of incidences.  It is important however to distinguish the nature of the incidents and near misses and look at the reason for the rise.

NHS Improvement confirm that of the number of mistakes, 63,380 resulted in harm to mother or baby and 288 resulted in death.

The improvement in recording and transparency should help to prevent repeat problems going forward. In serious cases reported under the 'duty of candour' I often find that the lessons learned lead to improvements and changes in policy to the benefit of the patient going forward.A third of incidents related to mistakes with treatments or procedures.  The BBC confirm a range of problems, which I as a clinical negligence lawyer am very familiar with;

  • Delays dealing with women who had suffered haemorrhages and other complications
  • Babies left brain damages after being deprived of oxygen at birth
  • Babies not screened for infections, leaving them at risk of meningitis, blood poisoning and pneumonia
  • Delays in emergency Caesareans, causing distress to  the baby
  • Midwives requesting help from consultants too late or not at all
  • Women being told to stay at home or sent away from maternity units despite reporting potentially serious problem.
  • Forceps deliveries or other interventions
  • Not listed,  but another failing that I see is in the recognition of high risk pregnancy and the need to treat and monitor accordingly.

Half of maternity units are currently not judged safe enough.

The statistics need to be balanced against a spike in birth rates, immigration, shortage of midwives, increase in obese mothers and women waiting until their 30's and 40's to have children.  The rise in IVF and increase in more complicated births of twins and triplets all have a knock on effect on resources.

Maternity cases are said to be the biggest cause of clinical negligence pay-outs.  In context, this is probably because of the catastrophic problems often encountered in surviving brain damaged baby cases and the level of care that the infants need into adulthood.  The compensation awarded is to safeguarding the future of the child affect. It will help with the care, accommodation, treatment and equipment needed to support the affect child and their family.

Alas, prevention is better than cure and in my blog on the 1st December I wrote about the government target to halve the rate of stillbirths , deaths and baby brain injuries by 2025.  With reporting and enhanced transparency let's hope that it can be met.

For further information please contact solicitor Leonie Millard in our Clinical Negligence department via email or phone on 01254 770517. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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