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September 9th 2021

Birth Negligence

Learning from ‘eye-opening’ National Maternity Safety Conference will allow us to further help our clients

Lauren Dale

Lauren Dale

Solicitor, Clinical Negligence

Learning from ‘eye-opening’ National Maternity Safety Conference will allow us to further help our clients

The National Maternity Safety Conference has highlighted how “collaboration is key in achieving patient safety" after an “eye-opening” day of talks in Birmingham.

The National Maternity Safety Conference has highlighted how “collaboration is key in achieving patient safety” after an “eye-opening” day of talks in Birmingham.

Hudgell Solicitors, as joint headline sponsors of the conference for a second year, were represented by three solicitors and our in-house midwife specialist at the event organised by Baby Lifeline, the campaigning mother and baby charity.

Solicitors Lauren Dale, Michelle Tebbutt and Shauna Page, along with midwife Theresa Greenwood, attended in order to learn from the maternity experts giving presentations so that we can better help our birth injury clients going forward.

The conference brought together maternity professionals, system leaders, subject specialists, patients and families to present the latest evidence on the safety of maternity care today, share examples of positive improvement and best practice and hear from senior leaders about the next steps in the national maternity safety programme.

It served to bring greater awareness to safer maternity care, with one of the key themes emerging being the importance of working together.

During the ‘Getting Safer Faster’ panel discussion, chaired by Independent Health Correspondent Shaun Lintern, Professor James Walker, Clinical Director in Maternity of the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB), said: “No one group can solve all the problems. We have to work together to implement change.

“The patient’s story. The families story. What they wanted, what they felt, is so important.”

Prof Walker also spoke about the HSIB’s maternity investigations and the importance of robust processes, sharing the below slide, about which Ms Page, one of our medial negligence solicitors, said: “This is helpful for clients. They want to know what happens following a complaint, claim or investigation.”

CQC chief stresses need to strive to be ‘safer today than yesterday’

As part of the same section of talks, Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said: “Women’s voices are not strong enough.

“Maternity stands out as a service where observed safety has not improved in the way we would expect. It all comes back to the issue of leadership and culture. The governance needs to be right. Leadership needs to be good, staff need to be trained.”

Ms Dale, on hearing Prof Baker’s talk, commented: “Welcome comments in a move away from a defensive culture when mistakes happen and a move towards robust communication and patient engagement to improve patient safety in which he said, ‘safer today than yesterday’.”

Concerns about maternity services were highlighted at the conference, with three key areas for improvement being identified:

  • Board level maternity safety champion role is crucial;
  • Staff competencies, teamworking and training require support from professional organisations and regulators;
  • Engagement and involvement with individuals and groups who use maternity services through Maternity Voices Partnerships.

This part of the day went on to hear from Dr Denise Chaffer, Director of Safety and Learning at NHS Resolution (NHSR), who said: “We can be better at responding at the point of incident – putting our arms around patients, offering a meaningful apology and a compassionate response.”

And solicitor Ms Dale added: “Great to hear from Denise Chaffer to see that NHSR is focused on learning from mistakes and sharing information to prevent future harm.”

After Dr Chaffer displayed a slide ‘Response to harm – what do people expect?’, Ms Dale added: “This is why collaboration is key in achieving patient safety.”

‘Working together’ message hits home at National Maternity Safety Conference

This theme of togetherness was also heard in the panel discussion involving Gill Walton, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, and Eddie Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who provided a “candid and brilliant summary of the impact Covid-19 has had on maternity services”, according to one of the delegates.

The pair highlighted the importance of collaborating together, on which Ms Dale commented: “In agreement with this morning’s message of working together and listening to everyone involved to achieve safe births not ‘good’ births.”

As part of the conference, meanwhile, Ms Greenwood – an experienced midwife and former NHS incident investigator who joined us in March to further enhance our in-house medical expertise when handling serious clinical negligence claims – was on hand with our solicitors at the Hudgells stand to speak with fellow healthcare professionals, discussing experiences and highlighting our birth injury survey.

The survey, a joint piece of research with Baby Lifeline, asked parents in the build up to the conference how well supported and listened to they felt throughout pregnancy and birth, with the findings shared to delegates at the event. Click here to see the results so far >> 

Through our longstanding relationship with Baby Lifeline, midwives were invited to fill in the survey at the conference as part of the second phase of our research.

Jeremy Hunt at the Baby Lifeline conference
MP Jeremy Hunt at the Baby Lifeline conference in Birmingham

The conference had been opened by MP Jeremy Hunt, the former Health Secretary and current Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, who said 500 more consultants and 2,000 more midwives were needed.

“In this world there isn’t always good news, but to get a 30% reduction in neonatal deaths is fantastic… and this is down to a lot of work in this room, but there is a but,” he said.

“We still have a desperately sad amount of tragedies. There is still a very, very long way to go.”

One of the keynote speakers was maternity rights campaigner Nadine Montgomery, who provided an insightful sharing of her own story and experiences, about which Ms Page said: “What an inspirational lady. Nadine Montgomery, campaigner for informed consent. Putting women’s autonomy decision making at the centre of what Baby Lifeline is doing.”

Other top quotes from the National Maternity Safety Conference

  • “It’s absolutely crucial that we talk about risks… and the balance of those risks for mothers and babies,” said Marian Knight, Professor of Maternal and Child Population Health, University of Oxford.
  • “Blame culture is the worst possible way of progressing patient safety,” said Sir Liam Donaldson, Patient Safety Envoy at the World Health Organisation.
  • “We’re at risk of just discovering the same problems over and over. Knowing what good looks like is the first important step,” said Professor Mary Dixon-Woods, Director of THIS Institute, University of Cambridge.
  • “A key aspect of all care going forward needs to be that we listen to women,” said Donna Ockenden, midwife, nurse, healthcare leader and Baby Lifeline Honorary President.
  • “The parents have to be at the heart of the story, it’s their narrative. When parents are engaged early on you avoid escalation either to a complaint or litigation because most parents just want answers and an apology,” said Charlotte Bevan, Senior Research and Prevention Advisor at the charity Sands.
  • “We mustn’t make exceptions, our services must be right for all,” said Baroness Julia Cumberlege, Chair of the National Maternity Review.

Sara Ledger, Head of Research and Development at Baby Lifeline, also discussed the charity’s latest ‘Mind the Gap’ publication, which will be released soon, on the back of previous versions calling for increased funding for maternity safety training.

Delegates listen to a talk by Dr Gloria Rowland at the National Maternity Safety Conference
Delegates listen to a talk at the National Maternity Safety Conference

Our backing of the conference is part of our continued support of organisations like Baby Lifeline in raising awareness around the need to continually improve maternity care through training and development, and by ensuring lessons are learned from mistakes.

And Ms Tebbutt, the third of our medical negligence solicitors present, concluded: “I had a fantastic day at the National Maternity Safety Conference with Shauna, Lauren and Theresa.

“It was very educational and eye-opening, whether that talk was by an MP, a patient or one of those on the maternity front line. It was a privilege to attend.”

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Download the results of our Birth Injury Survey 2021 here. 

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Click here for examples of clients we have helped make a birth negligence claim

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