Maternity Training Needs Being Ignored

As the National Audit Office announced this morning that the NHS spends nearly £700 on clinical negligence cover for every live birth in England, the figures came as no surprise to maternity charity Baby Lifeline, a national charity that aims to achieve the best care and outcomes for pregnant women and their babies. It ties in with the NHS Litigation Authority’s (NHS LA) own report, Ten Years of Maternity Claims – An analysis of NHS Litigation Authority Date that was released in October 2012, and shaped Baby Lifeline’s Birth 2 UK subsidised training programme as a direct response. Yet despite the high cost of medical insurance, the charity is still struggling to fill its places because NHS funds are not being made available to train staff.

The NHS LA report revealed that 5,087 maternity claims had been reported to the NHS LA involving incidents occurring between 1 April 2000 and 31 March 2010. The three most common categories of maternity claim identified in the report relate to the management of labour (14%), caesarean section (13%) – both of which may involve brain injury – and cerebral palsy (11%). The management of labour and cerebral palsy, along with cardiotocography (CTG) interpretation, were identified as the most expensive categories of claims. Together, they accounted for 70% of the total value of all claims.

This is addressed in training provided by Baby Lifeline who launched the BIRTH 2 UK maternity training programme earlier this year, using the expertise of its staff from the NHS. It offers 3,500 subsidised training places to healthcare professionals involved in the care and safe delivery of mothers and their babies, provide training for 48 one-day courses for doctors, midwives, nurses, relevant legal professionals and others. The benefits of being trained include improved knowledge and skills to encourage best clinical practice and communication, helping to ensure the healthiest outcomes possible during pregnancy and at birth. The programme launched in October 2013 and is supported by Robert Francis QC of the Francis Report. It represents excellent value for money at only £65 per head, yet so far it has recruited only around 200 delegates. While NHS staff have been enthusiastic about the training and responded positively, the overwhelming message has been that the funds have simply not been made available for staff to attend.

Judy Ledger, Chief Executive of Baby Lifeline, said:

“It makes no sense that while we all want the best treatment and care available for pregnant women and their babies, the NHS is not making the funds available to train staff. The impact of a child being born with a severe disability like cerebral palsy is terrible for the family and they will need to make a claim in order to care for their child properly in the years ahead. Of course it would be better if the situation never arose, and staff were adequately trained in the first place though. At Baby Lifeline, we offer training and support to healthcare professionals but they are not getting taken up due to lack of training budgets, but at the same time the NHS are setting £700 aside per live birth for potential negligence claims”.

Baby Lifeline also recognises that the true cost of clinical negligence is far more than the money paid out by the NHS to claimants. Other costs include:

  • pain and suffering of the injured person, and the impact on their family and friends
  • distress caused to staff involved, some of whom will leave the NHS
  • replacing highly trained staff, either on an interim or permanent basis
  • resources used on investigations, managing complaints and resolving claims
  • NHS resources used to deal with the consequences of clinical negligence, which could have been used to care for other patients.

Baby Lifeline is a unique national charity supporting the care of pregnant women and new born babies all over the UK and worldwide www.babylifeline.org.uk

For more information or to speak to Judy Ledger, contact 07932 102403/ 01676 534671

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