Are maternity services safe? – Part 221 Sep 2022 | Stephanie Prior
In April last year I wrote a piece about government setting up a taskforce to look into why there are inequalities in maternity care and how outcomes for women, particularly in ethnic minorities can be improved.
Today, in the news Catherine Burns and Alison Benjamin, Health correspondent and data journalist, respectively have provided information suggesting that more than half of maternity units in England fail consistently to meet safety standards. Emphasis on the word consistently must be expressed. The reason I say this, is because in 25 years of practising as a solicitor I have been involved in cases relating to maternity issues, such as stillbirths; brain injured babies; maternal fatalities and maternal injuries during delivery. I have also dealt with cases relating to unwanted pregnancies and babies who have been born with disabilities due to a failure to carry out specific routine tests during antenatal care of the mother. The issue here is that I am still investigating such cases despite the internal investigation process each time an error is made, despite the HSIB investigating incidents relating to maternal harm/death. Changes are not being made and lessons are not being learned.
According to the press, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated 7% of maternity units as posing a high risk of avoidable harm, with 48% requiring improvement. Why is this improvement so sluggish? Why are staff in the NHS maternity units placed under so much stress and such risk themselves of causing harm to women while trying to do what they are qualified to do?
In the cases that I am regularly involved in, human error is the cause of the harm caused to the women and babies. This is often due to lack of training; lack of staff on duty and equipment available in maternity units not being fit for purpose.
The CQC safety ratings published in September 2022 for the 137 maternity units in England revealed that
- 9 had the lowest rating of inadequate for safety
- 66 required improvement to reduce risk to mothers and babies and to make sure that legal requirements were met
- 62 had a good rating for safety
- 0 were rated outstanding
Interestingly it has been quoted that in December 2016, 50% of maternity and gynaecology units had good safety ratings whereas only 45% are in that position now.
I absolutely agree with Gill Watson the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives that there is an:
“ongoing crisis in maternity services” and more funds are badly needed.
“Every time there’s an inquiry, there’s a flurry of ‘we’re going to do this, this and this. And then it falls off the agenda.”
This is probably because there is a deficit in England in so far as 2,000 more midwives are needed and 500 Obstetricians. It is quoted that 500 midwives left the profession last year. I cannot imagine how it must be to work in a profession where you are doing your best and yet it will never be enough as there are not enough other members of the team to support you. When you are unable to provide care for all of your patients, as you cannot be two places at once, and you may be responsible for several women in labour who require you to be with them, but you are torn as to who to provide care to first. Situations can then become urgent and dangerous, which is exasperated when there are not enough staff to provide care, causing maternity services to become unsafe and not fit for purpose.
The government has recently invested more money into NHS Maternity services, £127 million and this is in addition to £95 million a year to boose maternity services.
Another issue that has come to light in some of the cases that I have been involved with is that when a mother loses her child, she is not signposted to bereavement services. Only yesterday, I spoke to a grieving mother who delivered her baby daughter 6 weeks ago. Her daughter suffered a significant brain injury and died 18 days after she was born. This was due to a difficult birth. The mother of the deceased baby was distraught, she had been discharged home alone from hospital with a significant injury herself and does not have support from family or friends. She was a lone parent and for the last 6 weeks she has been unable to comprehend what happened to her daughter. She cannot return to work; she is not eating or sleeping. She was not signposted to any bereavement services by the NHS Trust involved in her daughter’s care and she is dealing with her grief in complete isolation. Thankfully there are organisations such as SANDS, Child Bereavement UK; Cruse and other charities such as Oscars Wish Foundation who can provide advice and support. However, their services are so much in demand. This is a knock on affect of the issues with maternity services in England.
If would like to speak to a specialist from the medical negligence team, please contact Stephanie or complete the online enquiry form below.
Contact Stephanie today
For a free initial conversation call 0207 485 8811
Email us Send us an email and we’ll get back to you
"Stephanie Prior is very empathetic and practical, she gets to the heart of a case quickly."
"Stephanie Prior is highly respected in the marketplace, with a great wealth of experience, superb judgment and medical knowledge that is second to none."
"Stephanie has always shown great judgment and common sense whilst building valuable relationships with her opponents."
"Stephanie Prior is a standout solicitor."
"Stephanie Prior is an experienced lawyer with immense knowledge of her specialism, which allows her to run her cases with strategic precision."
"Stephanie knows her way effortlessly around any clinical negligence issue and has a great strategic mind."
"I know [we have] expressed our appreciation, but I also wanted to thank you for all your hard work, time and patience in pursuing mum’s claim through to a successful outcome - your kind and professional approach was genuinely appreciated."
“May I take this opportunity to thank you for your patience and true compassion in yet another very tough year of representation on the behalf of my wife. I certainly must say you did it all with amazing stamina and positivity which regenerated my self-esteem…. You honestly eased the pain and I can see a healing process ahead.”
Stephanie has developed a particularly strong reputation for her handling of birth injury claims, as well as cases concerning surgical negligence and delays in surgery.
"Stephanie Prior takes on complex cases and gets excellent results. She has a background in medicine which serves her clients well and is a realistic but tough litigator."
"Stephanie Prior is hugely dedicated, adored by her clients, tenacious, efficient and extremely knowledgeable."
"Stephanie Prior is very good with troubled clients and is easily able to make them feel at ease."
"Stephanie shows sensitivity and deals with things in an understanding way."
The lawyers in the team are highly experienced and will drive cases very hard on behalf of their clients.
"Stephanie Prior has a realistic attitude to the complexities of the cases. She wins the trust of her clients and goes the extra mile to ensure they get the best outcomes."
Stephanie’s background in medicine gives her an ability to read between the lines where medical records and expert evidence are concerned and is a great asset.
"Her knowledge base is second to none and her understanding of the litigation process stands out, as does her ability to work collaboratively."
"Stephanie Prior... manages a varied caseload, including obstetric claims, child and adult brain injury cases and fatal and non-fatal spinal cord injury cases."
"Stephanie is experienced, knowledgeable of all aspects of clinical negligence work, and strategic in running cases."
"Key team members include the approachable, compassionate and efficient Stephanie Prior."
Stephanie Prior is always very professional and kind. Highly recommended.
Stephanie Prior is ‘very warm’ and ‘caring’, and an ‘exceptional professional’.
Stephanie Prior continues to receive widespread praise from clients, who state that she explains the legal aspects of the case very clearly, and she is also a caring person who handles cases on a personal level.
More from Stephanie VIEW ALL
Nottingham Maternity: Donna Ockenden to Chair Independent Inquiry
An interim report on the state of maternity services at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust has just been released. However,...Read more
Stephanie Prior Comments on the Ockenden ‘Maternity Scandal’...
Following the publication of the Ockenden Report, an independent review of maternity services at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust,...Read more
Women from ethnic minorities experience worse maternity care
It has been reported today that the government has set up a new task force to look into why there...Read more