Report reveals Maternity care in England ‘requires improvement’ with some areas deemed ‘inadequate’

7th July 2021


The research comes from the health committee, a cross-party group of MPs whose role it is to scrutinise health services and government policy in the UK.

The recent inquiry examined the ongoing safety concerns with maternity services and the action needed to improve safety for mothers and babies reducing unnecessary deaths.

It also found that despite a number of high-profile incidents, improvements in maternity services have been too slow, reporting evidence of a ‘defensive culture’, ‘dysfunctional teams’ and ‘safety lessons not learned’.

Staffing numbers were identified as the first and foremost essential building block in providing safe care, therefore an investment of £95m has been granted to initiate a recruitment drive, appointing more midwives into the field, essentially providing the NHS with the workforce it needs.

The report proposes the annual budget for maternity care in England should be increased by a minimum of £200m to £350m with immediate effect.

Jeremy Hunt, MP, who chairs the Health and Social Care Committee, said “Although the NHS deserves credit for reducing baby deaths and stillbirths significantly, around 1,000 more babies would live every year if our maternity services were as safe as Sweden.”

In Sweden, compensation is paid to those who have suffered because of maternity failings purely on the basis that care was not good enough, unlike in the NHS, where negligence must be proved. This contributes to what MPs describe as a damaging and persistent “blame game”. Experts credit the Swedish approach through encouraging health professionals to be upfront when mistakes happen, which in turn leads to a greater willingness to learn from such failings.

The Committee have voiced that the majority of births are totally safe, praising the NHS for the “impressive” 30% fall in neonatal deaths and 25% drop in stillbirths over the last decade. Yet on the other hand they recognise and admit failings in England’s maternity care services that have resulted in devastating consequences for many.

In England failings in maternity care make up 40% of claims made against the NHS, with the single highest cost of £2.3 billion paid out in 2019-2020.

Just last month East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust was fined £733,000 after admitting it failed to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to two patients in its care.

From this report, it can be questioned whether government officials are holding themselves accountable for the lack of funding and resource provided to our National Health Service.

What we do know for certain is that it is undoubtedly not the patients’ fault, yet they and their loved ones are ultimately the ones having to face the lifelong trauma arising from such devastating incidents and for which no amount of compensation can remedy.

You can read the Committees full report here.

If you would like to discuss any issues arising from this article, please do not hesitate to speak to a member of our medical negligence team on 0191 384 0840.

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