There can be few more devastating life events than a pregnancy which ends with a mother or baby suffering a life-changing injury – or worse still not returning home to their family at all after complications during labour and birth. It is a heartbreaking situation which, of course, most of us thankfully never have to deal with.
There can be few more devastating life events than a pregnancy which ends with a mother or baby suffering a life-changing injury – or worse still not returning home to their family at all after complications during labour and birth.
It is a heartbreaking situation which, of course, most of us thankfully never have to deal with.
However, despite continued medical and technological advances, latest statistics show that on average, 15 babies a day still die within their first four weeks of life in the UK. In addition, on average, one mother a day dies also.
Investigations and research has suggested that between 76-80% of stillbirths and perinatal deaths are preventable, statistics which led to the Government pledging to make improving care for mothers and babies a key priority in 2015.
In his role as Health Secretary at the time, Jeremy Hunt MP pledged that the Government would work towards reducing the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths in England by 50 per cent by 2030.
He promised to invest millions of pounds into high-tech digital equipment and training for staff to improve outcomes, so with that in mind it will be interesting to hear from him at the National Maternity Safety Conference in Birmingham later this month, five years on from making that pledge.
The event, Entitled ‘Working Together Towards Safer Maternity Care’, has been organised by the mother and baby charity Baby Lifeline.
It will provide updates on many other ongoing initiatives, led by the NHS, charities and professional bodies representing health professionals – all aimed at improving care for mothers and babies.
Baby Lifeline is an organisation we have long been proud to support at Hudgell Solicitors.
Established by Judy Ledger in 1981 after she suffered the loss of three premature babies, it has continually highlighted the need for improved care and facilities on maternity wards across the UK.
It has also raised millions to fund the purchase of vital equipment, support continuing research and provide maternity care training where it is most needed.
As joint headline sponsors of the conference, we at Hudgell Solicitors are hugely proud to be supporting an event which brings together key individuals responsible for national maternity care learning and improvement in the NHS.
It provides a platform where NHS managers and leading consultant obstetricians, gynaecologists, anaesthetists and midwives can share real examples of maternity safety improvement, covering CTG interpretation and fetal monitoring, culture and quality improvement.
It also crucially provides an opportunity to learn from one another as a result of adverse events and investigations.
Learning from mistakes is crucial to improving maternity care
From our perspective, the importance of learning from mistakes and sharing best practice cannot be underestimated.
They are two elements which we feel are key in each and every birth negligence case we are instructed on.
As lawyers we investigate care to identify where things went wrong, seeking to highlight areas which can be changed to prevent similar mistakes happening again. We therefore have a key role to play ourselves moving forward.
There is clearly still a great deal of work to be done.
The latest findings of the ‘Each Baby Counts’ report, published in 2018, found that seven out of 10 stillbirths, neonatal deaths and babies brain damaged at birth could be avoided if the NHS provided better care during labour.
A lack of staff, the pressure on maternity units and a failure by midwives and obstetricians to follow guidelines were highlighted as common factors as to why more than 1,100 of the 700,000 babies born every year in the UK either die during or soon after birth, or suffer serious injuries to their brain.
Quite simply, the number of cases remains far too high and must fall faster. Our rate of reduction has been significantly slower than other European countries in recent years, and that needs to be addressed.
Having worked as a hospital manager myself previously, and from many years of supporting those who have suffered from negligent care in my legal role, I know that the vast majority of midwives and doctors working on wards across the country do a tremendous job.
They are completely committed to the people they care for and they provide outstanding support to so many on a daily basis.
However, it remains common for these dedicated health professionals to be under trained, overstretched, left using unsuitable equipment and placed under unacceptable pressures to carry out the most important role of helping a mother bring a new life into the world.
It is a combination which leads to avoidable injuries and loss of life. It is a collective failing, and there has to be a collective solution.
Significantly the keynote closing topic at this month’s conference is entitled ‘Working Together and Speaking with One Voice’.
This is something I feel we all have to do to make the best possible impact going forward.
It is a credit to Baby Lifeline for organising an event where so many influential people who can make a positive impact on maternity care will come together with one clear goal, and I certainly look forward to both hearing the progress being made, and to meeting those making a difference.