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Medical Negligence specialist James Bell on the rise in private midwives

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

The Evening Standard has reported an apparent surge in demand for private midwives for women having their second child. The paper reports that women who have had a poor experience with the NHS with their first birth are turning to private, independent midwives for their second birth.When I last looked at this issue in depth and spoke with some fellow lawyers, I understood that independent midwives could not obtain liability insurance as they were deemed to be 'high risk'. The value of any Birth Injury Claim that could be made against them could be several million pounds. I understood that no insurance company was willing to enter this market and underwrite these risks.I am not going to be judgemental about the mothers who choose this route. The chances of something going badly wrong with any birth in a developed Western European country are, in the scheme of things, very small.If a mother decides to have a home birth with an independent midwife then I feel that she should be able to exercise her freedom to choose this option.The only comment I have in relation to the legal aspects of this is in relation to informed consent. The mother must be told that if something were to go wrong there will be a longer delay than normal in organising appropriate medical intervention. Secondly, mothers must be told whether the midwife has insurance and the level of cover.The patients can then make an informed choice.