Concerns over death and injury of babies around birth in the NHS

Posted by Patricia Wakeford on

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Chris Smyth, the Health Editor for the Times writes on the 10 June that "a thousand babies a year die because the NHS fails to meet the standards set in Scandinavia". This is from a study led by Elizabeth Draper of the University of Leicester.

Apparently, the worst areas in Britain have death rates a third higher than the best, even when you take in to account poverty, age and ethnicity. One in 150 babies die around birth, but the NHS does not take stillbirth as seriously as child deaths in other circumstances.

It appears that units are not learning from their mistakes. Louise Silverton from the Royal College of Midwives says there should be more targeted services for women in higher risk groups.

Chris Smyth reports that the annual bill for clinical negligence has reached £1 billion after more than 1,300 babies died or were injured in the last year. The most expensive claims relate to those where there is a failure to monitor a baby's heartbeat during labour. This can result in a lack of oxygen to the brain and as a consequence the need for life long care. This is a significant cost to the NHS.

The NHS appreciate that there is a need to ensure the highest standards of safety. Health Chiefs are understood to be looking in to these figures and planning a drive for more consistent care.

I practiced as a midwife for over 20 years. It is very sad to hear how many baby deaths and injuries could be avoided. I understand the pressures on both midwives and clinicians. However, steps need to be put in place to reduce the death rate and the injuries. This will improve confidence within the NHS maternity services and significantly reduce the expenditure on this type of case through either the services or treatment that the child will require for life; or the clinical negligence claims that may result.

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About the Author

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Patricia is a Senior Associate, in our Clinical Negligence team, and is also a qualified midwife with many years of experience working in the NHS.

Patricia Wakeford
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