Families of infants who have passed away or suffered from inadequate care are calling for government officials to conduct a thorough investigation into ongoing shortcomings in maternity wards within the NHS.
The health secretary, Steve Barclay, is being urged to establish a judge-led statutory investigation into the ongoing issues in maternity services. These problems result in the NHS in England paying out £2.6 billion in damages annually.
Despite past investigations into maternity scandals at the Morecambe Bay, Shrewsbury and Telford, and East Kent NHS trusts, babies are still suffering and dying. The families are calling for a public inquiry to address the alarming lack of improvement in maternity safety within the NHS, in order to prevent further harm to women and babies.
The Maternity Safety Alliance, a collective of family members of infants who have passed away as a result of deficiencies in NHS childbirth practices, cautioned that further scandals will occur if an investigation is not conducted.
Our infants are too valuable to continue disregarding the fact that, despite various initiatives and policies put in place at a national level after investigations and reports, there are still systemic issues that negatively affect the well-being of both women and infants.
They wrote a letter to Barclay, urging them to take action in order to prevent avoidable harm that is causing devastation in people’s lives. They believe that fundamental changes need to be made.
The letter’s signatories include Emily Barley, whose daughter Beatrice died at Barnsley hospital last year after staff mistakenly monitored her mother’s heart rate rather than hers.
Jack and Sarah Hawkins, who have been instrumental in bringing attention to the significant flaws in maternity care at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust following the death of their daughter Harriet, have also signed the document.
The families are extremely disturbed that, despite numerous efforts, mothers and infants continue to endure and pass away due to the same lack of proper care that we have personally faced.
Repeatedly, we are told that “lessons will be learned” – but the same shortcomings persist.
The letter states that these occurrences are not limited to specific areas of the NHS, but can be found in almost every NHS trust in England, resulting in significant preventable harm.
The text states that there are challenges in ensuring that all mothers and babies receive safe care. These difficulties, related to culture, leadership, inequality, service structures, education and training, accountability, and governance, have been difficult to overcome.
Paul Whiteing, the head of the patient safety organization Action against Medical Accidents, supported the families’ request for an investigation into all aspects of maternity care in England.
Referring to the £2.6 billion in reimbursements that the NHS issues each year due to deficiencies in maternity care, he appended, “Behind that immense amount of money lies numerous devastating instances of harmed infants who will require long-term care.”
It is concerning that the NHS is paying a significant amount in compensation for a single area of medicine. An investigation is necessary to determine the cause of this issue, and it should have been conducted sooner.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) issued a warning two weeks ago that the majority of maternity units in England were not safe and that the quality of maternity care was declining instead of improving.
Barclay did not state whether he would comply with the group’s request.
A representative from the Department of Health and Social Care stated that all parents should have trust in the quality of care they and their baby receive. They appreciate the CQCs dedication to monitoring trusts that do not meet the necessary standards and ensuring that necessary improvements are made.
“In the past four years, we have increased our annual investment to £165m in order to expand the maternity workforce and enhance neonatal services nationwide. Additionally, we are actively encouraging individuals to pursue careers in midwifery by offering up to 3,650 training spots.”
A investigation has been launched into the quality of maternity care provided by the Nottingham trust, while families who gave birth at the Leicester acute hospital trust are calling for an investigation into reported instances of inadequate care.