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Published 9 July 2021
The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee, under the chairmanship of Jeremy Hunt MP, has been conducting an inquiry in relation to the safety of maternity services in England and it has now published its report setting out its findings and recommendations. The report seeks to address what it describes as “worrying variation in the quality of maternity care which means that the safe delivery of a healthy baby is not experienced by all mothers” and it makes recommendations in three categories to try to correct this longstanding problem, i.e.
The report notes that suboptimal staffing levels has been a persistent problem that has already been identified as a cause of poor maternity care, and that, apart from a shortage of midwives and obstetricians, the process of determining the right staffing levels for maternity units is complicated. The key developments/recommendations arising out of the report in relation to these issues are that:
This section of the report includes some important insights in relation to how the committee considers patient safety to be affected by the litigation process. It also includes an assessment of the role of Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (“HSIB”) in learning from incidents in maternity care, and an assessment of how data relating to such incidents is collated across the NHS. Some of the key conclusions set out in the report in relation to these issues are as follows:
In this section of the report the committee explore inequalities in outcomes, as well as issues relating to continuity of carer, informed choice and personalised care, and the need to ensure that women are not pressurised to have unassisted vaginal births. Some of the key points in this section of the report are as follows:
This report sets out a vision for a well-funded, safe and reflective healthcare system that would surely significantly reduce the number of injuries and deaths that sadly continue to occur, though the report does acknowledge that “England remains a largely safe place to give birth and efforts to increase the safety of maternity services have led to further improvements”. It remains to be seen whether there is an appetite in government to spend the very substantial sums of money on expanding the maternity workforce that the report calls for, and the merits of the Swedish approach to compensation need further exploration, but there is plenty in the report that will be welcomed and embraced by anyone who wants to see a safer NHS for mothers and babies.
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Anne Crofts, Hamza Drabu