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Struggling Maternity Services and Clinical Negligence Claims

England and Wales continue to remain a safe place to give birth, however, Trusts are not without their criticisms in respect of their maternity services.

Maternity services in England have been under criticism since 2004 where failings were identified in University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. This resulted in an independent investigation known as the Kirkup Report which investigated the management, delivery and outcomes of care provided by the maternity and neonatal services at this Trust.

The Kirkup Report highlighted serious failures in ‘clinical care, avoidable harm and a series of missed opportunities to intervene.’

On 6th July 2021 the Health Social Care and Committee (HSCC) released a report which stated that there ‘remains worrying variation in the quality of maternity care’ across England.

One of the issues raised within the HSCC Report is to address the essential building blocks of safe care. There are currently issues with staffing levels within maternity services, with 8/10 midwives in England believing staffing levels are unsafe.

The Expert Panel confirmed, in 2021, a need for improvement in staffing levels and estimates a need for 496 more obstetricians and 1,932 more midwives. They recommended an increase in budget by £200-£350m per annum with immediate effect.

England are not alone in their criticisms of unsafe staffing levels. In July 2023 the Maternity Neonatal Safety Support Programme Wales, Discovery Phase Report revealed that to achieve further improvement, there would need to be significant investment in workforce including in time and space for training.

Another issue raised by the HSCC is the culture of blame and the need for redress for families. In 2018 the Health Safety Investigation Board (HSIB) established a programme of independent investigations in hopes of having ‘meaningful engagement’ and investigations to be held in a caring and compassionate manner. However, questions have been raised as to whether families feel that the HSIB are achieving their goal.

The issues with unsafe staffing levels and clinical care are causing harm to mothers and babies, giving rise to clinical negligence claims. As a result, in 2021/2022 maternity related claims were among the top three specialties with the highest number of clinical negligence claims against the NHS.

Parents are encouraged to speak up with their concerns of their maternity and postnatal care. If parents feel that they have been failed by the Trust and harm has come to them or their baby, they should consider obtaining legal advice and report their concerns with the Trust.

It is important to find the right Solicitor to assist you if you believe you have a claim against a Trust. Here at Mackenzie Jones, we have experience in dealing with maternity and neonatal claims and are happy to take enquiries on your clinical negligence claim.

If you would like to speak to a member of our team, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0800 328 4466.