It has been reported that more than 1,400 mistakes were recorded a week in England’s NHS maternity units between 2013 and 2016 – errors which could have a life-changing impact on the health of babies and the lives of their families.
BBC Television’s Victoria Derbyshire programme has reported the figures – obtained through a Freedom of Information request – which showed 305,019 ‘adverse incidents’ were recorded in the four-year period.
The figures, from 81 NHS trusts out of the 132 in England, relate to incidents when unexpected harm, injury or death has occurred, and include anything from records being lost to a mother or baby dying.
In the same four-year, there were 259 deaths of mothers or babies recorded as avoidable or unexpected at 39 trusts.
Statistics show major improvements needed to halve rates of maternity deaths and injuries
The Department of Health was unable to comment on the new figures due to the pre-election purdah period, but did stress plans are in place to halve rates of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries in babies by 2030, with a new £8m maternity safety training scheme launched.
The Royal College of Midwives, however, says safety is still being compromised by the huge pressure maternity services are under, with too few working midwives, too many leaving for other careers and a lack of training.
It is why we at Hudgell Solicitors have long supported campaigns to improve both equipment and training on UK maternity units, including calls for the introduction of national standardised training programmes in hospitals.
The statistics show big improvements are needed, but until they are made, families will need expert legal support as, at present, many still face long legal battles to secure any financial support at all when a baby is born with life-long care needs.
Birth injury compensation should cover life-long needs – and start as soon as possible
In our work at Hudgell Solicitors, we see the life-changing consequences of medical errors at birth, but sadly, many families find themselves left struggling alone.
We continue to fight for speedier access to compensation for those we represent, as we know the sooner support can be provided for a child and their family, the better for all involved.
Too often, in cases where new-born babies are left with long-term health problems such as brain damage through being starved of oxygen, NHS Trusts further fail families by refusing to accept liability for their mistakes – often dragging the matter out for many years.
We certainly agree with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who in October praised ‘dedicated and hardworking NHS staff’, saying they ‘do an incredible job of bringing new babies into the world and achieving great outcomes for women, new-borns and their families.’
It is why pointing the finger of blame is never the goal when we are contacted by a family during such difficult times – our goal is simply to ensure children and families are fully supported to be able to live the best possible quality of life, and that hopefully, vital lessons are learned.
We s ask that when mistakes are made, NHS Trusts admit them early and approve interim damages payments for families as the longer-term impact of injuries are fully assessed and a final settlement agreed.
Much is made of damages and legal costs associated with such cases, but the true cost of these errors is the impact they have on so many lives. That should never be forgotten.