The initial investigation into Morecambe Bay in 2015 highlighted how “dysfunctional care” led to the avoidable deaths of 3 mothers and 16 babies.
Worryingly, lessons have clearly not been learned as evidenced by the CQC’s unannounced review this year. Amongst other findings, it was reported that staff failed to identify and act where women were at risk of deterioration, and did not have the requisite skills and experience to protect women from unnecessary harm. Further, a problematic culture appears to be ingrained in the unit whereby natural births are deemed to be best for all mothers, leading to emergency Caesarean sections at the last minute. This inevitably puts the safety of expectant mothers at risk.
Unfortunately, this report seems to be a part of a concerning widespread trend of substandard maternity care characterised by issues such as poor record keeping and errors in risk management. Only two months ago a CQC report was published emphasising the failures of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in protecting patients from avoidable harm. Similarly, representatives for East Kent Maternity Services entered a guilty plea after a seven day old baby died in their care in 2017.
This pattern of inadequate care suggests the quality of maternity services is a national crisis rather than the result of individual Trust incompetency.
Shoosmiths has extensive experience of representing women and babies who have received poor care in maternity units. Our medical negligence teams see first-hand the tragic consequences of substandard care for the families impacted.
Amy Greaves, a specialist clinical negligence solicitor in Shoosmiths Birmingham office, commented:
“This report further highlights the numerous flaws within maternity care, and reinforces the need for “inadequate care to be investigated” at a national level as a matter of urgency. This Trust was subject to a review 6 years ago that led to a number of initiatives to improve patient safety in maternity care. The consequences of poor care include avoidable deaths of mothers and babies, or catastrophic brain injuries due to the babies being starved of oxygen during the birth process. We see lost of cases where we can time the point of fetal distress from the brain imaging, which usually corresponds with a prolonged failure to act on signs of fetal distress. It is clear that urgent steps need to be taken, in line with the Ockenden Review, to ensure better maternity care and happier outcomes of pregnancies”.
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