More than 1,000 babies were killed or maimed by NHS negligence last year, according to new figures.
According to data from the NHS Litigation Authority, payouts for mistakes in maternity care reached £1bn last year after 1,316 babies were harmed during their mothers’ pregnancy or childbirth, up from just £488m a decade ago.
The most common complaint involved midwives and doctors failing to properly monitor babies’ heart rates leading to them being starved of oxygen at birth if left unchecked.
Birth injury errors such as these led to the NHS paying out £268 million to the parents of brain-damaged babies who will require constant, round-the-clock care for the rest of their lives.
Health campaigners have said it is a “scandal” the NHS is failing to learn from its mistakes as one “basic error” made up a quarter of all claims.
Blame has been directed at the continued tension between doctors and midwives and the on-going pressure on health authorities to provide “natural births”– without any medical intervention – regardless of the mother or baby’s best interests.
Mervi Jokinen, of the Royal College of Midwives, insisted that steps were being made to improve training and systems for reporting danger.
She said: “We need to look at how the service is delivered and how we’re going to recognise women and babies at risk [and] we need to make sure we work within teams with good communication.”
A spokesman for NHS England said: “We expect all mothers and their babies to receive excellent care... At a time when we need to get the best possible value within the NHS, the need to ensure the highest standards of safety becomes more urgent, not less.”
Maternity services have a long history of claims in negligence, and the significant increase in claims over the past decade simply highlights the fact that further investment in resources and training is urgently required.
The Clinical Negligence team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers has handled a significant number of cases where the failure to properly monitor women during labour and childbirth was a contributory factor in causing extensive brain damage to babies.
Many people only hear about babies who are born with life-changing brain damage. However, monitoring failures can also lead to a great number of other conditions encompassing both physical and mental disabilities, such as Brachial Plexus injuries, Cerebral Palsy and Congenital hip dislocations.
The continued rise in claims relating to these areas is extremely worrying and shows how the NHS needs to examine what more it can do, particularly in regard to investing in more staff and training, to try and prevent such claims from continuing.
Karen Cathcart is a Clinical and Medical Negligence Solicitor, specialising is all aspects of Clinical Negligence within the London Team.
If you or a loved one has suffered due to a mistake in maternity care, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on Freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.