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Mistakes by Doctors Are Causing up to 600 Stillborn Baby Deaths Every Year

A Department of Health inquiry is to reveal that up to 600 babies are dying needlessly every year due to errors made by doctors and midwives.

The confidential report conducted by Oxford University says doctors and nurses are failing to intervene in too many cases involving fetal distress in the womb. It also reveals that up to half of all stillborn baby deaths in the UK could be prevented each year by more careful monitoring and intervention to deliver babies before complications become more serious.

More than 3,500 babies are stillborn every year in the UK – one of the highest rates of stillbirth in Europe (4.7 per 1,000 total births in 2013). Stillbirth is the death of a baby either before or during birth following 24 or more completed weeks of pregnancy.

According to research conducted by the Lancet, Britain’s stillbirth rates are ranked 33rd out of 35 high-income countries with around one in every 300 births ending in a stillbirth.

The report is due to coincide with the unveiling of plans by health secretary Jeremy Hunt to reduce the number of stillbirths, neo-natal deaths, maternal deaths and brain injuries by 20 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2030.

In 2014, it was revealed that in just five years 20 hospital trusts paid out more than £1bn in medical negligence compensation to the families of babies who died or suffered serious brain injuries following mistakes made by hospital staff. Failures to properly monitor babies’ heart rates accounted for one in four pay-outs.

The plans will see £4m invested in new digital monitoring equipment that will include cardiotocography equipment used for monitoring babies’ heart rates. ‘Maternity Safety Champions’ could be introduced to report to senior NHS executives and £500,000 will be invested in a new safety system to ensure forensic investigations are carried out following the death of every baby in an effort to educate staff and ensure that lessons are learned.

From next month, hospital stillbirth and neonatal death rates will be published regularly online together with detailed data comparing the performance of maternity units, allowing prospective parents to make a more informed decision about their choice of hospital.

Jeremy Hunt told the Daily Telegraph: “This country’s stillbirth outcomes compared internationally are deeply troubling – and it means that too many families experience agony at what should be amongst the best moments of their lives. I am determined…to ensure that England is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby.”

Although maternity services are improving, all too often neonatal care failures are sadly, causing babies to suffer catastrophic complications. Mistakes made in identifying risks during pregnancy and failures to act to negate those risks are ending in too many needless pregnancy and birth injuries that are obviously utterly devastating to all involved.

Nisha Sharma is a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London. Nisha is widely experienced in handling claims for compensation following neonatal deaths.

The clinical negligence solicitors at Slater and Gordon help families who have had to deal with devastating birth injuries in a sensitive and supportive manner. We understand the complex legal and medical issues involved, and the importance of supporting you through this most difficult time.

If your baby was injured during pregnancy or child birth due to medical negligence call us for a free consultation any time of day on 0800 916 9049 or contact us online. We can provide immediate representation anywhere in the UK.

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