Crisis in Maternity Care
Medical negligence solicitor Frankie Rhodes considers answers that are needed to the crisis in maternity care
Posted on 17 July 2023
If you pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, you cannot fail to notice the many headlines that relate to poor maternity care and both the financial and human cost of the harm done as a result.
The Times Health Commission revealed that the NHS is paying out more than double what it is investing into maternity care per year. But it is vital to remember the reasons for these statistics and the families behind the compensation claims who have been harmed.
As a solicitor who specialises in cases where injuries have been sustained to both mother and baby, I am all too familiar with the devastating impact that inadequate maternity services can have. I act for clients who have suffered from life-changing injuries including debilitating perineal tears and hypoxic insults in newborn babies and stillbirths. Many also experience mental health problems as a result of traumatic births, leaving them needing treatment.
The Times Health Commission is a service set up to look into the future of health and social care in England in light of its current besetting problems. The final report will be published in January 2024.
In the course of obtaining evidence, Mumsnet have conducted an important survey for the Times Health Commission. It is disappointing to see that this has raised further unanswered questions about maternity services in England, particularly in the wake of scandals within NHS trusts such as East Kent, Shrewsbury and Telford and Nottingham. A recent CQC (Care and Quality Commission) inspection also confirmed that of the 45 units analysed in their investigation, so far six have been rated as inadequate and another 15 are said to need improvement.
In the Mumsnet survey, many women report feeling that they could not make informed decisions in planning for the birth of their child and also did not have enough information about pain relief in labour. There is no doubt that there are problems with under-staffing, partly due to the midwifery shortage, and a lack of investment in training that is sorely needed, but the Mumsnet survey highlights that there is also a worrying cultural issue, as so many women do not feel listened to. More needs to be done to ensure that every woman has access to safe and tailored maternity care, to prevent mistakes happening at such a regular rate in so many areas of the country.
NHS England has published a three-year delivery plan for maternity and neonatal services, with the aim of making care safer for women and their babies. Clearly, some pragmatic solutions are needed to improve outcomes and avoid needless harm and I hope that steps such as these will change the outlook for the future.
If you feel concerned about the care you or a family member have received, do not hesitate to contact us for a confidential, no-obligation discussion to see if we can help.
Frankie Rhodes is an associate solicitor in the medical negligence department.
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