Medical negligence

Maternity failings in the UK

It is becoming increasingly common that the UK’s maternity services are being called into question with many expressing their concerns about the quality and safety of the maternity care provided.

When you’re expecting a baby, it can be an incredibly exciting time, yet also daunting, especially if you are a first-time parent. During this time, it is important to rely on medical professionals to guide and advise you through your pregnancy and birth. These professionals have a duty of care to identify any potential health risks or problems, as well as manage any complications, ensuring you are well informed throughout your pregnancy and thereafter.

All medical professionals are responsible for ensuring you receive the best care during this time. However, that isn’t always the case with almost two-thirds of maternity units in the UK providing substandard care.

The consequences of substandard care often extend beyond immediate health concerns and can lead to serious health issues for both mother and child.

What is maternity negligence?

Maternity negligence is when you receive care that is below the acceptable standard and the care provided has caused personal injury to you and/or your baby.

Examples of maternity negligence may include:

  • Failure to offer effective prenatal care, such as failing to recognise and treat high-risk conditions or monitoring the mother's health insufficiently.
  • Misdiagnosis or a delay in the detection of pregnancy-related medical issues or consequences such as gestational diabetes, hypertension or placental abnormalities.
  • Errors made during surgery, such as poor incisions, organ damage, or excessive bleeding, after a caesarean delivery or during another operation.
  • Failure to properly diagnose and treat perineal tears following a natural vaginal delivery.
  • Inadequate monitoring of the woman and baby during labour, which makes it harder to spot problems or signs of distress.
  • Failure to advise appropriately on maternity pathways and often associated failure to gain appropriate consent from the mother (and father) about such pathways.

What is happening in the maternity sector?

Several reports dating back to 2015 have found alarming deficiencies in maternity care across several NHS trusts in the UK, all outlining avoidable injuries and deaths to both mothers and babies.

The upcoming Nottingham review is anticipated to investigate at least 1700 cases of possible harm, which comes after a report revealed 46 babies suffered brain damage and 19 were stillborn between 2010 – 2020. This particular review will predominantly investigate incidents between 2012 and 2022 and is being spearheaded by senior midwife, Donna Ockenden, with the report set to be published in March 2024.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) had published reports in May this year looking at maternity services run by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, rating them inadequate.

With reports such as these coming out, it’s hard not to question the safety of giving birth in the UK as we know that the safety and quality of maternity services may vary depending on the location and we also know what the harrowing affects can be with negligent maternity care.

According to a BBC analysis of The CQC safety ratings in 2022, covering 137 maternity units in England, more than half of them failed to meet safety standards. However, the government responded that England is a safe place to give birth as shown by improving safety outcomes and women’s reported experiences of care. They have also committed to implementing several improvements to maternity safety, such as increasing staffing levels, enhancing training, and learning from previous incidents.

Kim Burns, a Litigation Midwife at Slater and Gordon understands why people are fearful of the maternity news: “This is devastating for the profession. No one goes to work to do a bad job and put people at risk. Staffing concerns remain and will continue into the foreseeable future to affect care and capacity for midwives. Midwives are part of a wider team of professionals delivering care, and the NHS is under pressure, and this is showing in these reports. Staff within the system are doing their best to deliver, however they must face demands from all angles. Lots of units are striving to retain staff and involve clients using the Maternity Voices service user feedback. Clients concerned with their care can always raise concerns, either to their midwife or PALS.”


Gathering more information about your health condition is the first step in becoming your own advocate. Take time to educate yourself through supportive and reliable information, allowing you to have informed discussions with healthcare professionals. Here are some valuable resources to help you feel confident in a healthcare setting:

CPotential: provides integrated tailored therapy and support to children and young people with movement disorders, due to conditions such as cerebral palsy, global developmental delay or acquired brain injury

Cerebral Palsy Cymru: support for families in Wales with children who have cerebral palsy

CBIT (Child Brain Injury Trust): charitable organisation providing emotional and practical support

Maternity Worldwide: works towards safe and appropriate healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth

Tommy’s: dedicated to providing trusted pregnancy care and support

Bobath Cerebral Palsy Centre: providing support to families living with cerebral palsy

How can Slater and Gordon help?

At Slater and Gordon, we believe that expectant mothers and their babies deserve the highest quality of care. Unfortunately, change is not going to happen overnight, which is why it is incredibly important to advocate for your health during pregnancy and childbirth, and we will continue to create and promote valuable resources to ensure you are better equipped to do so and ensure that your own health is treated as priority.

If you don’t feel you’ve received the care you need whilst pregnant, we’ve created a template letter you can share with your healthcare provider to ensure they start taking your concerns seriously.

At Slater and Gordon, we have medical negligence experts that specialise in medical negligence during pregnancies and childbirth. As well as legal experts, we also work with dedicated nurses and midwives who work on our cases, to give deeper insight into these situations.

To find out more you can contact us online or on 0330 107 5017.

Discuss switching your case with our experts

Call us now on:   0330 041 5869
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