AWH Solicitors Backing Call for Statutory Inquiry into Maternity Care

Backing Call for Statutory Inquiry into Maternity Care
BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam
Legally reviewed by: BSC, LLB (Hons) & LPC Sophia Azam Updated: In: Medical Negligence

AWH In Support of Westminster Inquiry into Lasting Effects of Birth Trauma

AWH Solicitors, have made an official submission of support into the inquiry into the lasting effects of birth trauma. Our solicitors witness first-hand the profound impact it has on families and believe a thorough investigation is crucial. This inquiry offers a vital opportunity to understand the scope of the issue, identify systemic shortcomings, and pave the way for vital improvements in maternity care. Furthermore, by ensuring mothers and babies receive the safest possible birthing experience, we can collectively lessen the burden of birth trauma and empower a healthier future for generations to come. We hope that the All Party Parliamentary Group are able to deliver a framework for future progress when their report is delivered in April.

Over 100 People Affected by the Maternity Crisis Met in West Bridgford

On Saturday, February 18, 2023, over 100 people affected by the maternity crisis at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH) gathered in West Bridgford, Nottingham. Parents shared their stories of babies and mothers who suffered due to negligence from the Trust. For some, it was their first time getting to meet other families who had also been impacted by poor standards of care.

The event, organised by Jack and Sarah Hawkins, who campaigned for safe maternity services since the death of their daughter, Harriet, in 2016, aims to give a voice to the victims of the maternity crisis, to aid the maternity review and ensure those responsible are held accountable for their through a call for statutory inquiry into maternity care.

Jack Hawkins, told NottsTV “We don’t have confidence yet that NUH have grasped just how serious this is in their maternity department.”

AWH’s Medical Negligence Solicitor Nimish Patel, attended the event on Saturday: “I was humbled to see the bravery of the parents who spoke at the meeting about their experiences, particularly where the hospitals had wrongly blamed them for the death of their babies and even in some cases had led to arrests for harming their babies.

It has been described as a ‘post office’ moment and I could feel the energy from the meeting to follow up the ‘call to arms’ and put pressure on the politicians to call for accountability from the maternity services for their actions.”

Maternity Safety Alliance Campaigning for a National Statutory Public Enquiry

Emily Barley was one of the parents who shared her story at the meeting in West Bridgford. In 2022, Ms Barley’s daughter Beatrice died during labour at Barnsley NHS Trust. Ms Barley said there were “basic failures in care” and she was not listened to by staff. Barnsley Hospital apologised for the mistakes made.

In the wake of the tragedies Ms Barley and a group of other families experienced, the Maternity Safety Alliance was set up. The alliance campaigns for a national statutory inquiry on maternity safety.

Ms Barley states: “The current Government seem quite firmly opposed. We’re hopeful if there is a change in Government, we will get a different view.”

Therefore, the alliance calls for several measures to improve maternity care, including:

  • Improved training: Healthcare professionals need to be up-to-date with the latest guidelines and best practices in maternity care.
  • A more open and honest culture: There have been a number of cases where concerns about safety have not been raised or acted on. The alliance says that there needs to be a culture where staff feel able to raise concerns without fear of reprisals.

They have welcomed the recent government announcement of a £127 million investment in maternity services but have said that more needs to be done.

AWH Solicitors in Support of a Public Inquiry into Birth Injuries

Nimish Patel, Senior Associate Medical Negligence Solicitor states: Through our numerous cases over the last decade, we can see that the issues in maternity care are not individual mistakes but systemic errors which are made across the country.

The Ockenden review identified issues in relation to training, staff shortages and resources across the Maternity Units which have been investigated by the CQC.  However, often internal investigations have been a case of the gamekeepers policing the poachers and no substantial changes have been made which has meant that the same issues in monitoring and advice have led to the same mistakes being highlighted by inquests and reviews.

AWH are calling for a national public inquiry to put in place guidelines to improve maternity care and place the emphasis on clear communication with the parents during the course of antenatal and post-natal care.  The guilt felt by grieving parents should not be compounded by the finger of blame being pointed at them to divert attention from the mistakes made by the people who were meant to protect them.

Further, we believe that currently there are a series of small fires across the country where individual units are highlighted from a series of cases and the attention can be short-lived.  However, if the lawyers who see these cases across the country came together and shared data in relation to the similar issues arising across the country then it would lead to a stronger campaign in support of the statutory inquiry, and we are taking steps towards this for the benefit of parents everywhere.”

1 in 5 Mothers Suffer Miscarriages in First 24 Weeks

As 1 in 5 mothers suffer miscarriages in the first 24 weeks, the recent announcement of the provision for baby loss certificates is very welcome to allow parents to grieve properly.  The loss of a child at any stage of a pregnancy will be  deeply distressing emotionally and physically, many parents will struggle to come to terms with it for years to come regardless of whether they are able to have more children and this is a significant recognition of the emotional impact on not only them but the siblings and  wider family of the child.

Donna Ockenden’s Maternity Review

After the healthcare watchdog awarded maternity services at NUH a rating of ‘Requires Improvement’, Donna Ockenden, former midwife, launched an independent review into the hospital’s care:

The enquiry is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. Around 1,800 families and 700 members of staff are expected to be involved in the review. Furthermore, a criminal investigation is also being launched by Nottinghamshire Police into the maternity negligence at NUH.

One year after the launch of the independent review NUH states their improvements to their maternity services are highlighted in the most recent Care Quality Commission Report (CQC). However, for many it’s not enough, as families continue to come forward with stories of poor care.

Tackling a UK-Wide Maternity Crisis

News of maternity services failing to adhere to safety standards is increasingly frequenting front page press. Only this week, the BBC reports of concerns raised over University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, after a whistle-blower claims hospital inspectors ignored safety concerns about the NHS trust, leading to the death of a baby.

The recent news in Morecambe Bay NHS Trust echoes similar stories regarding NHS failings across UK-wide maternity services, such as:  Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Hospital Trust, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Nottingham University Hospitals,  William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent.

Worryingly, adequate maternity services are now in the minority with recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) data records showing 67% of maternity units to not be safe enough. This figure is concerningly up 55% from Autumn 2022.

Additionally, BBC analysis reveals that maternity units with the safety ranking of “inadequate” (the poorest ranking), have more than doubled from 7% to 15% since September 2022. A ranking of inadequate means that there is a high risk of avoidable harm to mother and baby.

The Maternity Safety Alliance hopes to address these failings by working with the government to improve the quality of maternity services, including better staffing levels, improved training for healthcare professionals, and a more open and honest culture where concerns can be raised without fear.

Comments from the Department for Health and Social Care

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said it was “committed to ensuring all women receive safe and compassionate care from maternity services”.

Furthermore, they add: “We continue to support NHS England’s Three-Year Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Services, and we’re investing £165 million per year, rising to £186 million from April, to grow the maternity workforce and improve maternity and neonatal care.”

Seeking Maternity Negligence Compensation

With the latest statistic of 67% of maternity wards not providing adequate care, it’s important to raise awareness that you or a loved one may be able eligible for compensation following any suffering caused by a failure of care.

Our team supports and represents the families of maternity negligence, helping them get the support and guidance they need to seek compensation and get the care they need.

At AWH, our solicitors are experts in successfully managing medical negligence claims. You can read more about our solicitor’s recent settlements here.

Finally, if you have questions or concerns about your maternity treatment, get in contact with our team.

Read more about AWH Solicitors’ maternity negligence services.

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