Hudgell Solicitors were delighted to play a key role in supporting baby and mother charity Baby Lifeline to reach a huge national audience and raise awareness of its new campaign to raise standards of care – and save hundreds of lives – on UK maternity wards.
The ‘Monitoring For Mums’ campaign is calling for a greater focus on in-house training across NHS Hospital Trusts, ensuring all deliver the same, relevant programmes covering key areas of maternity care.
The appeal is also aiming to raise £4.5m in donations from across the country to fund the purchase of key equipment which has been identified as needed to improve care by 88 maternity units themselves across the UK.
Baby Lifeline Founder Judy Ledger, and Amanda Stevens, group head of legal practice at Hudgell Solicitors, were interviewed on radio stations across the country about the campaign, which was also featured on Sky News’ Sunrise breakfast news show with presenter Eamonn Holmes.
Mrs Ledger, who set up the charity 35 years ago after suffering the heartache of losing three premature babies herself, has since raised more than £10m to help improve maternity care across the UK.
This campaign was launched after research conducted with 125 Hospital Trusts revealed more than half were providing just four days or less of in-house mandatory maternity training every year.
The research revealed a startling lack of consistency of training provided, with less than a quarter of Trusts highlighting teamwork and communication in obstetric emergencies as being part of mandatory training.
When asked what equipment was needed for staff to better support mothers and babies, almost 90 units requested help in buying new equipment, with a combined value of around £4.5m.
Mrs Stevens was interviewed by broadcasters including BBC Radio Leicester, Free Radio 97, Touch
The Breeze, Radio Exe, Radio Plymouth, Sunrise Radio Yorkshire and Kemet FM, and asked about the legal perspective relating to errors made on maternity units, leading to life-long injuries for babies.
She said: “We see far too many cases of serious, life-long injuries being suffered at birth due to poor equipment being used, wrong recordings being taken with regards to a baby’s health, or mistakes being made because staff have not had the relevant training in how to use the equipment.
“I highlighted how, as lawyers, we are supporting this campaign because ultimately we want the number of litigation cases to fall and for less families to go through the trauma of errors being made at birth.
“The campaign is seeking to raise £4.5m to provide all of these maternity units the equipment they have identified as being needed. That would be a figure similar or perhaps less than we’d be looking to secure in compensation for a single baby left needing life-long support due to avoidable errors made during labour or birth. “
Campaign to improve maternity care wins support of specialists
The campaign has already won the support of leading specialists from across the UK who believe it has the potential to save hundreds of lives each year.
Professor James Walker, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Leeds Institute of Biomedical & Clinical Sciences, has supported Baby Lifeline for more than 15 years.
He said: “Mothers giving birth expect that they and their babies will be alive and well. Too often our health care system fails them because the monitoring available is either inadequate or not carried out to the standard expected.
“I have been involved with Baby Lifeline for over 15 years and I think this is the most innovative and beneficial programme of work I have seen. It aims to partner with the care providers to make sure they have the best monitoring equipment available and the best training for their staff to utilise it.
It has the potential to save many hundreds of lives. I fully back this appeal and am really excited by what it will do.”
Professor Simon Mitchell, Consultant Neonatologist at St Mary’s Hospital in Manchester, says improved training around baby monitoring can make a huge difference,
“Effective fetal monitoring during labour is one important component in the earlier identification of potential problems affecting the baby, allowing the opportunity for earlier intervention when time may be crucial,” he said.
“Appropriate equipment, together with relevant training and support for healthcare professionals involved in intrapartum care, are each of vital importance in this respect.
“By seeking to support both of these, the Baby Lifeline Monitoring for Mums appeal will ensure that the best possible monitoring facilities and requisite skills are as widely available as possible wherever mothers choose to deliver.”
Urgent need for better in-service training for NHS maternity teams
James Drife, Emeritus professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Leeds and Honorary President of the Baby Lifeline charity, feels the campaign is addressing an area of healthcare which has badly needed improvement.
“There is an urgent need for more and better in-service training for NHS maternity teams,” he said.
“Some professionals, such as firefighters or footballers, devote most of their working time to training. The NHS, however, gives it surprisingly low priority. Hospital staff have few statutory training days and these tend to be on subjects like hand hygiene and fire prevention. Study leave is severely limited by financial pressures, and because staff cannot be spared from their day-to-day work.
“National NHS agencies agree that training is the way to tackle the remorseless increase in obstetric litigation, and the human tragedies that it represents, but they pass the buck when it comes to paying.
“Consequently, midwives and doctors, acutely aware of the need to maintain the highest possible standards, often finance courses in their own time themselves.”
Dr William Parry-Smith is a Clinical Research Fellow and Specialist Registrar in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, based at the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, College of Medical & Dental Sciences at The University of Birmingham.
He said: “I believe that the combination of enhancing frontline NHS maternity staff’s training, while simultaneously providing much-needed fetal monitoring equipment, is a strategy that should improve outcomes for both mothers and their babies.
“I support the appeal as a strategy to help reduce the tragedy of stillbirth and early neonatal death and commend the vision and determination of Baby Lifeline.”
Research by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) claimed between 500 and 800 babies die or acquire severe brain injuries due to something going wrong during labour each year in the UK – more than one a day.
The Government has targeted halving the number of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies by 2030, with a 20 per cent reduction by 2020.
To see what equipment is required by your local hospital maternity unit, and to learn more about the campaign, go to www.monitoringformums.co.uk/