The Need For Change – Maternity Care in the NHS

Sadly, as we are all aware, it has recently come to light that there have been a series of high profile systemic failings within NHS Maternity Services across the UK. As a result maternity services are being highly scrutinised.

The failings have included various scandals from Lucy Letby, Morecambe Bay and Shropshire to toxic work environments and systemic racism. The attitude within the NHS for far too long has been to  preserve reputation which has led to many NHS staff being silenced by managers and afraid of whistle blowing. The chief executive of the patient safety charity, Action against Medical Accidents (AVMA), Paul Whiteing has commented: “There is sadly a long history of whistleblowers who speak up being ignored, side-lined and blamed and sometimes forced to pay the price of their efforts with their livelihood”.1 This has, despite the duty of candour (which compels Doctors to be transparent and honest) resulted in a hugely detrimental impact on many families particularly those utilising the maternity services causing mothers and their babies to suffer.

The need for review has been flagged by The Care Quality Commission (CQC) which is a body that regulates health and care providers in England. The CQC began its maternity inspection programme in August 2022 with the aim of reviewing the quality and safety of maternity care across England. As part of their programme, they will be inspecting all NHS acute hospital maternity services which have not been inspected since April 2021. The CQC will also be placing a key focus on safety and leadership within maternity units.

Many hospitals and Trusts across the nation are now taking action to improve their maternity services and better the experiences for mothers and their babies. While any and all improvements will always be welcome and a positive step, it is disappointing that this service requires such improvement; it is a basic expectation that patients should be safe when using NHS services, after all.

Further, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has launched a Maternity Incentive Scheme (MIS) which is run by NHS Resolution and is intended to support the delivery of safer maternity care through incentives for individual Trusts. The MIS involves 10 safety actions that must be taken by Trusts in order for them to obtain the funding incentives. These actions include Trusts submitting data to the Maternity Services Data Set, undertaking training, listening to women, parents and their families using maternity services and using the National Perinatal Morality Review Tool to review perinatal deaths. In October 2023 the MIS group wrote to Trusts outlining the strict strategies which must be adhered to for Trusts to comply with the 10 safety actions which form part of the MIS.2

It is hoped that with the intense focus on maternity services, there will be a more positive future ahead, although, it is in the early stages and the outcomes and any significant changes are yet to be seen. What is important is that no patient; parent or child, should ever suffer negligent or intentional harm.

If you, or your family have been affected by medical negligence, you should seek legal advice especially as there are strict deadlines for commencing civil claims. Here at BTMK we have a highly specialist team of clinical negligence Solicitors who can provide you with legal advice. Do not hesitate to contact our team on 03300585222

1 Lessons the NHS needs to learn after Lucy Letby case | Lucy Letby | The Guardian

2 Maternity incentive scheme – NHS Resolution

Written by Amelia Ward, Trainee Solicitor and Johanne Turner, Director, in the Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence team.

The Clinical Negligence team at BTMK Solicitors were absolutely delighted to make the prestigious Legal 500 publication again this year.  The department have a huge amount of experience in this area and pride themselves on offering a personal service to their clients at what is likely to be one of the most difficult times in their lives.  As one of the few firms to feature from the South of the county, this is recognition of the team’s expertise. 

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