Safer Maternity Care

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Safer Maternity Care

Published 4 December 2017

The Department of Health's report, 'Safer Maternity Care: The National Maternity Safety Strategy - Progress and Next Steps', was published on 28 November 2017. The report is designed to further implement and accelerate change that will assist the DoH's ambition to halve the number of still births, deaths and brain injuries that occur during or soon after birth, by the earlier date of 2025.

The report also sets an additional ambition to reduce the national rate of pre-term births from 8% to 6% by 2025; it is said that the national ambition can only be achieved if the rate of pre-term births is reduced. Jeremy Hunt strongly endorses the need for improvement and further learning and considers "Safe care, to be personal care".

The report includes an update on progress with the implementation of the 'Safer Maternity Care Action Plan' and states that new funding and initiatives launched through this plan last year are already having an impact on service improvements.

The report proposes a number of steps to make sure all is done to assist in the new ambition date and to prevent serious incidents in maternity services, including the following key aspects:


  • NHS Improvement is developing a central platform within the NHS Improvement Hub to foster a cohesive community of Maternity Safety Champions, other system leaders and experts to help spread learning and best practice across the system.
  • New funding to train midwives to have the knowledge, skills and confidence to give very brief advice to women during antenatal appointments and upskilling practitioners (e.g. maternity support workers) to deliver evidence based smoking cessation interventions.
  • New funding over 3 years to train 12 consultant physicians as 'Obstetric Physicians' to be able to establish networked maternal medicine across England. The Obstetric Physician together with an Obstetrician trained as a Sub-Specialist in Maternal Medicine will provide expert care for pregnant women with complex medication problems. They will also provide region-wide leadership and expertise across the whole network to help ensure there is early recognition of problems and access to best practice care.
  • A new Atain e-leaning programme to support healthcare professionals to improve outcomes for babies, mothers and families through the delivery of safer care with a focus on respiratory conditions, hypoglycaemia, jaundice and asphyxia. An additional module also raises awareness of the importance of keeping mother and baby together.
  • The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) will be funded to develop investigation standards and conduct independent investigations into all cases that meet the criteria for notification from the RCOG's Each Baby Counts Programme (stillbirths, neonatal deaths and potential severe brain injury) and all maternal deaths from direct or indirect causes related to pregnancy.
  • Funding to launch 'Each Baby Counts Learning and Support' – a programme of work to enable greater collaboration between the Royal Colleges and the NHS with the aim to align quality and safety improvement, multi-professional learning and clinical leadership into a consistent and sustainable safety strategy across the system.
  • The scheme will incentivise implementation of good practice across all maternity units.  Those Trusts who can demonstrate compliance with the 10 criteria, agreed by National Maternity Champions, will be entitled to at least a 10% reduction in their CNST maternity contribution.  There is opportunity for other Trusts, unable to demonstrate full compliance to benefit from a lesser sum to on the basis that this will be used to gain full compliance and may also include an offer to 'buddy' with a qualifying Trust in order to gain support. Contribution notices for members of the CNST will be sent out in the next two weeks with further details on the incentive scheme to follow in early December. Compliance will be assess through a verification system in June 2018 and NHSR will confirm any discounts.   

 The 10 criteria are as follows: 

  1. Are you using the National Perinatal Mortality Review Tool to review perinatal deaths? (Y/N)
  2. Are you submitting data to the Maternity Services Data Set (MSDS) to the required standard? (Y/N)
  3. Can you demonstrate that you have transitional care facilities in place and operational to support the implementation of the ATAIN Programme? (Y/N)
  4. Can you demonstrate an effective system of medical workforce planning? (Y/N)
  5. Can you demonstrate an effective system of midwifery workforce planning? (Y/N)
  6. Can you demonstrate compliance with all 4 elements of the Saving Babies' Lives care bundle? (Y/N)
  7. Can you demonstrate that you have a patient feedback mechanism for maternity services, such as the Maternity Voices Partnership Forum, and that you regularly act on feedback? (Y/N)
  8. Can you evidence that 90% of each maternity unit staff group have attended an 'in-house' multi-professional maternity emergencies training session within the last training year? (Y/N)
  9. Can you demonstrate that the trust safety champions (obstetrician and midwife) are meeting bi-monthly with Board level champions to escalate locally identified issues? (Y/N)
  10. Have you reported 100% of qualifying 2017/18 incidents under NHS Resolution's Early Notification scheme?


Dawn McIntosh

Dawn McIntosh


+44 (0)191 404 4036

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