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Midwife Shortage: a Red Flag Event

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

The shortage of midwives in the UK has resulted in red flag events and impersonal care that has left women feeling frightened and being treated “like cattle”, according to a new report.

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The report, from the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI), involved a study of 2,500 women who have given birth in the UK since 2014. Among the findings, half had experienced at least one “red flag” event, including not receiving timely access to pain relief.

A red flag problem is defined by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) as a “warning sign that something may be wrong with midwifery staffing”.

In the report, along with room shortages and “staffing issues”, some women described their experiences as “robotic” care and being “on the conveyor belt.”

Given the diminishing availability of services within the NHS and in social care, our clients are increasingly reliant on compensation awards to secure appropriate treatment in the future and this trend is likely to continue.

Among the findings, seventeen per cent of women did not get one-to-one care from midwives, while more than a third who required or received pain relief experienced a delay of 30 minutes or more.

Nine per cent saw between one and six midwives during their pregnancy. Most women saw between one and four. Eighty eight per cent hadn’t met any of the midwives who looked after them during their birth. More than half of those said it did not make a difference to them because of the professionalism of the midwives caring for them. However, 12 per cent said this left them feel alone and vulnerable. Six per cent said it made them feel unsafe.

Midwives recognise that their patients are suffering, because they cannot provide a good standard of care. The shortages have arisen because many cannot endure working conditions, which can lead to compromised care for both mother and baby.

Previously, research from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) revealed that inadequate staffing levels and “dangerous” working conditions are forcing midwives to leave the NHS, according to a new report. The study of more than 2,700 midwives revealed some were looking after up to 15 mothers and babies at the same time and working 12-hour shifts without a break. Midwives also reported not being listened to when raising concerns for the safety of mothers and babies and feared making “tragic” mistakes. For more information on this study, please see: ‘Dangerous’ Working Conditions Forcing Midwives to Leave NHS

We act for clients who have experienced the consequences of the pressures on midwifery care, including:

  1. Cases involving injury to mother – including hysterectomy, fistula (causing faecal or urinary incontinence), nerve damage and death
  2. Cases involving injury to the baby – including cerebral palsy, stroke, brachial plexus and death either before delivery or in the first few days after delivery

As well as securing compensation for our clients to enable them to access the right quality of medical care and support, our role ensures that these issues are highlighted and reported to the Department of Health and NHS Litigation Authority, so that they can identify the risks facing patients and take steps to reduce the incidence of these events in the future.

Given the diminishing availability of services within the NHS and in social care, our clients are increasingly reliant on compensation awards to secure appropriate treatment in the future and this trend is likely to continue.

 

 

For further reading, please see: UK Midwives Shortage: a View From a Midwife 

Lindsay Holt is a principal lawyer specialising in clinical negligence and healthcare law at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

For a free consultation about a clinical or medical negligence compensation claim call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online and we will call you.

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