New research carried out by the Twins and Multiple Births charity (TAMBA) has revealed that hundreds of children are suffering preventable deaths or severe disability such as cerebral palsy because the NHS are not following clinical guidelines.
Guidelines introduced by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in 2011 required that midwives should be trained in multiple births, sonographers should be skilled in scanning for multiple pregnancies, and that obstetricians should always be available when needed.
The cost to introduce this training was low and would have enabled improved patient safety and protection, yet the research has revealed that fewer than 20% of NHS Trusts have taken this on board, despite the number of multiple pregnancies increasing year on year.
Multiple pregnancies are known to be higher risk and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have also called for the NICE recommendations to be implemented. This is so that any complications can be effectively managed, but to date the Department of Health has yet to instigate such simple steps.
Multiple births account for a significant percentage of all NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) settled cases and when complications arise, they can cause lifelong needs for both affected children and their families.
The NHSLA report of 10 years of maternity claims highlighted that the most effective way to reduce both financial and human cost is to improve risk management and reduce incident occurrence. This is even more important given the present demands being placed upon service provision, yet it appears that cost effective measures and guidance are not being implemented to protect patients.
To improve patient safety and reduce risk, lessons have to be learnt from all such guidance, and this needs to be demonstrated to improve both safety and confidence for parents.
We are acting for many individuals who have suffered substandard clinical care and are calling for the NHS to demonstrate clearly and effectively how patient safety is improving given the repeated issues that are arising.
Tim Deeming is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK who supports patients and their families following substandard clinical care.
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