Maternity Units Across The UK Continue To Jeopardise The Safety Of Expectant Mothers & Their Babies

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report has this week raised further concerns that too many maternity units across the country have still not improved the services they provide despite a string of childbirth deaths in recent years.

In the CQC report, which was based on nine inspections from March to June 2021, it highlighted:

  • Several serious issues that lessons are not being learned by maternity units and that many childbirth incidents involving patients’ safety are still not being recorded. For example, at one Trust, the death of an expectant mother had not been investigated as a serious incident and staff at another Trust suggested that there had been instances of “cover-ups” when errors had been made.
  • Despite various inquiries, reports and recommendations, some NHS Trusts are being “too slow and action to ensure all women have access to safe, effective and personalised maternity care has not been sufficiently prioritised to mitigate risk and help prevent future tragedies from occurring”.
  • Evidence of poor working relationships between and within obstetric and midwifery teams.
  • A distinct lack of leadership and on some occasions, a “culture of bullying” existed where treating maternity staff were afraid that if they raised concerns about poor medical care that they could potentially lose their jobs.
  • Medical risks faced by women from black and minority ethnic groups were “exacerbated” during the pandemic, which highlighted the “urgent need to improve equity in maternity” according to CQC Inspectors. The CQC also criticised NHS Trusts for not doing enough to obtain the views from black, minority ethnic and poorer communities about how to improve their experience of childbirth. According to statistics, black women are four times more likely to die whilst giving birth than white women, and Asian women are twice as likely.

Recently, several NHS Trusts have been heavily criticised for a string of significant maternity scandals involving poor care, which sometimes continued for a prolonged period of time. These Trusts included Morecambe Bay, East Kent and Shrewsbury and Telford.

Additionally, according to figures released in July 2021, over 40% of maternity services in England are rated as being either “inadequate” or “requires improvement” by the CQC.

In response to the CQC report, Ted Baker, the regulator’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said:

“We know that many maternity services are providing good care, but we remain concerned that there has not been enough learning from good and outstanding services,”

Mr Baker added that the findings of the CQC report were representative of all medical care and services across the country as it was only in respect of nine hospitals where previous evidence suggested that mothers and their babies were being put at risk. However, he added:

“But we cannot ignore the fact that the quality of staff training; poor working relationships between obstetric and midwifery teams, and hospital and community-based midwifery teams; a lack of robust risk assessment; and a failure to engage with and listen to the needs of local women all continue to affect the safety of some hospital maternity services today.”

In respect of errors not being reported correctly or covered up, Mr Baker commented:

“The death or injury of a new baby or mother is devastating and something that everyone working in the health and care system has a responsibility to do all they can to prevent.

“It is essential that we have a system that is open, and that recognises, investigates and learns when things go wrong, so that families get the truth and safety continually improves”

CQC Report Maternity Services

How we can help with birth injury claims

Matthew Olner is a Partner in our Medical Negligence team, which has been ranked in tier one by the independently researched publication, The Legal 500.

At Nelsons, our experienced team of solicitors investigate and successfully pursue birth injury claims for children and mothers injured during childbirth. We have clients based all over the country and we are always happy to visit clients in hospital or their own homes.

We instruct the most experienced independent medical experts, who will review your medical records and comment on the standard of care that you received and whether this was negligent in causing your injury.

Please call Matthew or another member of the team on 0800 024 1976 or contact us via our online form.